Posted on 6/8/2020

World Oceans Day 2020

World Oceans Day is an annual recognition that takes place every June. We are so fortunate to live on this beautiful blue planet. Did you know that the ocean comprises 70% of the Earths surface? Thats a pretty big deal! On the Outer Banks we are surrounded by big blue and simply could not love our ocean more! World Oceans Day is a day to celebrate the beauty of our salty seas, as well as raise awareness for protecting her; so future generations can enjoy her and all of her glory. Recent World Oceans Days have focused on the 30 x 30 initiative - the global drive to protect at least 30% of land & ocean by the year 2030.  In honor of World Oceans Day, wed like to highlight some of the local marine life that calls the OBX home.

HORSESHOE CRABS. Contrary to their name, horseshoe crabsarent actually crabs at all. Believe it or not, theyre closer relatives tospiders than they are to crabs - who knew!  

Considered to be living fossils, they have remainedon unchanged for over 445 million years. Theyve been on earth wellbefore dinosaurs, and amazingly enough, are still found on our beaches today!

These critters are completely harmless, and rather, are usedto help humans. They are extremely important in the biomedicalindustry due to their unique copper-based blood. As such, horseshoe crabs areused medicinally.

While their tail may look intimidating, they are not used to inflict injury, and rather just a tool to help them flip back to being right side up. If you ever encounter a horseshoe crab, please do not pick up by the tail.

Horseshoe crab population is on the decline, so its importantwe protect these ancient relics.

TURTLES. Due to our proximity to the Gulf Stream, the OBX isa hub for turtles! Were eager to put our terrapin friends in the spotlight.Here are some fun facts about turtles:

  • Sea turtles will nest in the same location that they were born, and will return for subsequent nesting. This means that generations of sea turtles have been born in the same place.
  • The temperature of the environment will determine the turtles sex. Warmer temperatures produce females and colder temperatures produce males. So interesting!

Chances are, if youre driving along our local residentialareas in the spring and summertime, you may have to stop and allow a turtle/tortoiseto cross over; or you may be on the beach and see a designated Sea TurtleNesting area. 

What can we do in these situations to help and ensure theirsafety?

If you see a turtle crossing the road, allow it to crossover on its own.  Stop your car and put on 4-way flashers to alert othermotorists. If you feel its necessary to assist, ensure your safety firstbefore taking any action. If safe to assist, always send a turtle off in thedirection it was headed. Never turn the turtle around. Assume the hamburgergrab, ensuring the underside is within your grip. Do not just grab it by thetop, or by the tail, as this can dislocate bones.

Tips to keep Sea Turtles Safe:

  • Have a fun day on the beach, digging holes and building towering sandcastles, but please ensure your area is leveled-out when you leave for the day. Not doing so may throw off nesting and the turtles and hatchlings may fall into any deep holes.
  • Turn off your lights at night. Hatchlings follow light sources. Once theyve hatched, they need to immediately make their way into the water. If there is light pollution, they will instinctually go towards the light, rather than towards the sea.
  • If you see a designated sea turtle nesting site, maintain a respectable distance, and keep pets leashed.

Refrain from releasing balloons and paper lanterns into the sky. Even the biodegradable ones take time to break down, which can still trap a turtle. Reducing single use plastic consumption can also help protect our terrapin friends. They love munching on jellyfish. Plastics floating in the water resemble their favorite food.

RAYS. Graceful in their maneuvers, seemingly flyingthrough the water, stingrays are found in our Atlantic waters. They are notsomething to be feared, so long as one proceeds into their home mindfully. Stingraysdont want to hurt anyone, but since they bury themselves on the oceanssandy bottom, they may accidentally get stepped on. Because humans are farlarger than the rays, they react defensively in order to protect themselves. 

If one simply does the stingray shuffle, thereshouldnt be an unfavorable interaction. By sliding your feet across the oceanfloor, rather than taking steps, the stingray (and nearby crabs) will feelthose vibrations in the sand, and move out of the way. Shuffle your feet; dontget stung!

 If one is struck by arays barb, the best thing to do it to submerge the wound in as hot of water asthe individual can withstand. The heat neutralizes the toxin and eases pain.

Stingrays are important to our oceanic ecosystem and, muchlike the horseshoe crab, are considered to be living dinosaurs. Fossils ofthese rays have been found dating back as far as the Jurassic era.

SEALS. Not a common occurrence for tourist to see seals onthe beaches in the summer, due to their migration pattern, but they are a partof our ecosystem! The time to see seals on the Outer Banks is in thewintertime. The local harbor seals have adopted the nickname ChristmasSeals due to the time of year that they visit us.

Pups will swim ashore to rest, relax, and soak up somesunshine. It is always an amazing experience to be apart of! The Marine MammalStranding Network is on call for wildlife that has come ashore. When someoneencounters a beached pup, they are asked to call the MMSN (252-455-9654) andthey will dispatch a member to watch over the sweet lil pup.

If you see a seal on our beaches, please remain at least150ft. away, and secure pets on a leash.

PIPING PLOVER. These highly endangered shorebirds can befound along the east coast and call our beaches home. If youve been on CapeHatteras National Seashore, it is likely that you may have encountered portionsof the beach closed off due to bird nesting. This is a very important practicethat biologists take very seriously in order to preserve the species. 

Piping Plovers nest along the eastern seaboard. They nest along the Outer Banks,as far south as Hatteras, but they actually prefer nesting on beaches like those found in New England. This is because they prefer rockier beaches for nesting, especially where there are tidal pools, which the chicks eat out of.

While these birds are endangered, their nesting numbers havebeen on the rise. This increase in nesting is attributed to protections implementedespecially during their nesting season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided theseguidelines to help protect endangered shorebird nests (which parallels seaturtle protections)

  • Walk closer to water than the dunes - near the dunes is where wildlife typically nests
  • Maintain a respectable distance from the birds
  • Keep dogs leashed
  • Do not feed animals near the beach and remove all food scraps, as that will attract predators.

PORPOISE/DOLPHIN. A crowd-pleaser, for sure! Everyone loves to see these beauties swim and surf on by. Dolphins are highly intelligent and social mammals. Their brains are more complex than the human brain, using echolocation, to see what lies ahead and to communicate with their fellow pod pals. There is a large variety of porpoise. We can commonly see the Bottlenose on the OBX. Not exclusive to the ocean, one can also find dolphin in the sound.

How can we ensure the safety of dolphin? 
Conscious consumption of seafood, not feeding them when we see them in thewild, reducing use of plastics, and never releasing balloons into the sky-which inevitably end up in the ocean.

WHALES. The Carolina coast has a decent share of migratory whales. These mammals pass through our neck of the woods in the off-season.They spend their winters in tropical waters and migrate to North Atlantic forthe summer. In December - January, one may see migratory whales headed south tothe warmer waters, where they will give birth to their calves. Then again, theymay be spotted in March - April as theyre headed back north for thesummer. 

A few of the common whales to spot here include: humpbacks, fin whales, and North Atlantic right whales. 

In the winter, it may be a bit difficult to spot them as theyre migrating off shore, because it coincides with the time of year wetypically see rough surf and, potentially, noreasters. On a calm day, one mayvery well see a whales fluke and see them blow water out of their blowhole, asthey take a breath of air. Just like dolphins, these marine mammals mustsurface to breathe. Keep an eye out for spewing water, and a posse of birdsoverhead. Birds like to follow the whales as they typically find food hotspots.

Whale sighting in Kill Devil Hills

If you'd like to see these beautiful creatures first hand, Southern Shores Realty is here for you to house your next beach getaway! Visit us on the web or call us locally at 252-261-2000.

Posted on June 8, 2020 by Kelly Knutson.
Previous The Skyco House 0103 - BALIWEST Next

Recent Posts