Sea turtles nest on sandy beaches in the tropics and sub-tropics. People find these beaches attractive places to build beach houses, restaurants and hotels. Loss of habitat through development of nesting beaches presents one of the most serious threats to sea turtles around the world.

Beachfront Property

Land cleared for real estate development at Playa Grande.

© Jason Bradley |

© Jason Bradley |

Coastal construction and dredging can reshape beaches, making them too steep for nesting leatherbacks to haul themselves out of the water. Construction noise can also drive turtles away. Removing beach vegetation contributes to erosion of nesting beaches and destroys critical nesting habitat for green turtles.

Cutting down shoreline trees and shrubs may improve ocean views but also permits light from beachfront buildings and streets to shine on the beach, disorienting hatchlings and deterring turtles from nesting. Human use and development of nesting beaches can also threaten turtles with pollution from septic systems, trash and pet feces.

Starry Night

Leatherbacks and other sea turtles prefer dark nesting beaches with no artificial lighting.

© Doug Perrine |