DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The summer tourist season is about to start on the Emerald Coast. Prior to millions of visitors packing the beaches, marine animals that call this area home will be coming ashore starting May 1.

Sea Turtles that are born on the emerald coast come back each year to lay nests. Turtles typically come up overnight in the early morning hours to find a quiet and dark space to lay their bundles of eggs. The nesting season begins May 1 and runs through October.

The City of Destin is offering free red-filtered flashlights to help these turtles have an easy and safe time on the beach.

A Turtle's Journey: Grab a free red filtered flashlight for beach walks and ghost crab hunts

Tourists and locals can get free flashlights at a number of locations:

  • City Hall
  • Emerald Coast Science Center
  • The Gulfarium
  • Henderson Beach State Park
  • Destin Chamber of Commerce
  • Destin History and Fishing Museum.
    • They will all have them at their locations with the education components so people understand the reasoning. 

When to use a red filtered flashlight:

“At night,” said Catherine Card with the City of Destin. “So when they’re searching for ghost crabs, they’re looking around walking down the beach, and especially if they’re wanting to be very cognizant about you know our nesting sea turtles and so forth.”

The city bought 2,500 flashlights to start the season. Anyone or business interested in also providing flashlights can contact the city at 850-460-8538.

More ways to help nesting sea turtles:

  • Avoid leaving big items on the beach overnight
  • Fill in any holes in the beac
  • Knock down any sandcastles or structures before nightfall.
  • If caught while fishing, DO NOT CUT THE LINE and call FWC at *FWC

“It is for residents as well as visitors,” said Card. “So the more that we can educate and build that awareness between our residents and visitors, it’s a win-win.”

Card also prioritized beach safety during an interview with WKRG News 5. With a big tourist season ahead, the flag system is a major part of visitor education.

“With the summer months ahead of us it’s about beach safety,” said Card. “Knowing the beach flags, if they’re seeing a double red flag, water is closed. That is, for everybody safety. 

We’re known for an area where we’re going to have a lot of rip currents so people are coming here, be close to a beach lifeguard if you’ve got questions, ask.

Understand what the beach flag system means and just making sure that you know you’re keeping eyes on your children as well as you know, having the buddy system with yourself don’t be out there by yourself and it’s really important to understand what those beach flags the colors mean on our beaches.”

Catherine Card, City of Destin PIO