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Alabama beach goers get tips on protecting the environment

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As the temperatures heat up and schools let out, more people are heading to Alabama beaches for summer vacations. With the growing crowds, the Alabama Coastal Foundation (ACF) is providing important information to help coastal visitors keep themselves and the environment safe.

“This is a beautiful landscape that we call home on this planet. We share our water and our land with other creatures that aren't human, and we need to be respectful of their habitat so that we can continue to enjoy them in their natural surroundings,” said Jill Chenoweth, deputy director of the ACF.

Alabama beaches are home to lots of wildlife, however one of the most vulnerable species found in coastal Alabama are sea turtles. Nesting season for sea turtles in the state is from the beginning of May through the end of October. During this time, female sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs in the sand. These eggs are vulnerable to predators and to humans who may harm their nest.

The ACF’s Share the Beach program aims to mitigate human related impacts to sea turtles. This includes monitoring sea turtle nest and hatchlings. They do this through marking any sea turtle nest that are found in the sand. Beach-goers who come across an unmarked sea turtle nest are encouraged to call the Sea Turtle hotline at 1-866—732-8878.

In addition to reporting unmarked sea turtle nest, visitors should also fill in any holes in the sand and flatten any mounds that they create so that turtles can make it back to the water. Also, using a sea turtle friendly flashlight can mitigate the amount of artificial light that misleads turtles away from the ocean.

Chenoweth also emphasized the importance of keeping the beach clean to help protect wildlife on the coast. She recommended keeping a garbage bag on hand during a beach day to fill with personal trash and also any trash that is found in the sand.

“Leave the beach cleaner than you found it. Pick up everything, bring in chairs, utensils, toys. Bring a garbage bag and fill it with your own garbage and then also pick up other people's garbage. I just put everything into a little pile and then when I'm ready to leave, I put it into my garbage bag,” said Chenoweth.

Chenoweth also discussed ways to be safe during a beach vacation. She mentioned being educated on beach flag meanings is important as beach flags indicate ocean conditions.

· Yellow: Medium Hazard

· Red: High Hazard

· Double Red: Water closed to public

· Purple: Dangerous Marine Life

 
She warned that going out into the ocean when there is a double red flag is dangerous. Double red flags could indicate hazardous water conditions such as riptides and large waves.

“Double red means the waters are closed to the public and entering water during this time would be putting rescue people in danger and other folks on the beach in danger.”

In addition to paying attention to flags, beach-goers should be sure to stay hydrated and remember to use sunscreen under the hot Alabama sun this summer.

“I do highly recommend wearing sunscreen and you need to apply it before you even leave to get to the beach. It needs to be on for 15 to 30 minutes per second to your skin to fully absorb it,” said Chenoweth.

The Alabama Coastal Foundation was founded in 1933 to improve and protect Alabama’s coastal environment.

For more information and tips for staying safe at the beach this summer and how to minimize environmental impact on the coast, visit the ACF website.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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