World Oceans Day 2020

June 8, 2020

Happy World Oceans Day 2020!

We are so fortunate to live on this beautiful blue planet. Did you know that the ocean comprises 70% of the Earth’s surface? That’s a pretty big deal! On the Outer Banks we are surrounded by big blue and we couldn’t 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. This year’s World Oceans Day focuses on 30 x 30 – the global drive to protect at least 30% of land & ocean by the year 2030.  In honor of World Oceans Day, we’d like to highlight some of the local marine life that call the OBX home.

Contrary to their name, horseshoe crabs aren’t actually crabs at all. They’re closer relatives to spiders than they are to crabs – who knew!  

Considered to be “living fossils”, they have remained unchanged for over 445 million years. They’ve been on earth well before dinosaurs, and are still found on our beaches today!

They are completely harmless, and rather, are used to help humans. They are extremely important in the biomedical industry due to their unique copper-based blood.

Horseshoe crab population is on the decline, so it’s important we protect them, and that’s why we’re featuring them on this year’s World Oceans Day.

If you joined us for World Wildlife Day, you may have seen our information sea turtles! We’re eager to put our terrapin friends in the spotlight again! 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 generations of sea turtles have been born in the same place. How neat!
  • The temperature of the environment will determine the the turtle’s sex. Who knew!

Chances are, if you’re driving along the residential areas in the spring and summertime, you may have to stop and allow a turtle/tortoise to cross over; or you may be on the beach and see a designated sea turtle nesting area.  What can we do in these situations to help and ensure their safety?

If you see a turtle crossing the road, so long as the road is not busy, allow it to cross over on its own.  Stop your car and put on 4-way flashers to alert other motorists. If you feel it’s necessary to assist, ensure your safety first. Always send a turtle off in the direction it was headed. Never turn the turtle around.

Tips to keep Sea Turtles Safe:

  • Have a fun day on the beach, digging holes and building towering sandcastles, but just ensure your area is leveled when you leave for the day. It throws off nesting and the turtles or hatchlings fall into the holes.
  • Turn off your lights at night. Hatchlings follow light. Once they’ve hatched they need to immediately make their way into the water. If there is light pollution, they will go towards the light, rather than the sea.
  • If you see a designated sea turtle nesting site, maintain a respectable distance, and keep pets leashed.
  • Refrain from releasing balloons into the air, and

Graceful in their maneuvers, seemingly “flying” through the water, stingrays are found in our Atlantic waters. They are not something to be feared, so long as one proceeds into their home mindfully. Stringrays don’t want to hurt anyone, but since they bury themselves on the ocean’s sandy bottom, they may accidentally get stepped on. Because humans are far larger than the rays, they react defensively in order to protect themselves. 

If one simply does the “stingray shuffle”, there shouldn’t be an unfavorable interaction. By sliding your feet across the ocean floor, rather than taking steps, the stringray (and nearby crabs) will feel those vibrations in the sand, and move out of the way. If one does get struck by a ray’s barb, the best thing to do it to submerge the wound in as hot of water as the individual can withstand. The heat neutralizes the toxin and eases pain.

Stingrays are important to our oceanic ecosystem and, much like the horseshoe crab, are considered to be “living dinosaurs”. Fossils of these rays have been found dating back as far as the Jurassic 

Not a common occurrence for tourist to see them on the beaches here, due to their migration pattern, but they are a part of our ecosystem! The time to see seals on the Outer Banks is in the wintertime. The local harbor seals have adopted the nickname “Christmas Seals” on the OBX, due to the time of year that they visit us!

Pups will swim ashore to rest, relax, and soak up some sunshine! Always an amazing experience to be apart of! The Marine Mammal Stranding Network is on call for wildlife that has come ashore. When someone encounters a beached pup, they are asked to call the MMSN (252-455-9654) and they will dispatch a member to watch over the sweet lil pup.

If you see a seal, call 252-455-9654, remain at least 150ft. distance away from the animal, and leash pets.

These highly endangered shorebirds can be found along the east coast and call our beaches home. If you’ve been on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, it is likely that you may have encountered portions of the beach closed off due to bird nesting. This is a very important practice that biologists take very seriously in order to preserve the species. 

Okay so maybe they don’t live in the ocean, but they live on her shores and depend on a healthy environment to survive.

Piping Plover will nest along the eastern seaboard, as far south as Hatteras, but they prefer nesting in New England. This is because they prefer rockier beaches for nesting, especially where there are tidal pools, which chicks eat out of. While these birds are endangered, their nesting numbers have been on the rise. This increase in nesting is attributed to protections taken during their nesting season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided these guidelines to help protect endangered shorebird nests (which also applies to sea turtle nesting)

  • Walk closer to water than to the upper beach, near dunes – as this is where they typically nest
  • Keep a respectable distance from the birds
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Do not feed animals near the beach and remove all food scraps, as that will attract predators.

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 the wild, reducing use of plastics, and never releasing balloons into the sky –which inevitably end up in the ocean.

Not typically attributed with the Outer Banks, we do have a our fair 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 for the summer. In December – January, one may see migratory whales headed south to the warmer waters, where they will give birth to their calves. Then again, they may be spotted in March – April as they’re headed back north for the summer. 

There are 3 species of whales that can be spotted: humpbacks, fin whales, and North Atlantic right whales. 

It can be hard to spot them as they’re migrating through, because it coincides with the time of year we typically see rough surf and, potentially, nor’easters. On a calm day, one may very well see a whale’s fluke and see them blow water out of their blowhole, as they take a breath of air. Just like dolphins, these marine mammals must surface to breathe in air. So keep an eye out for spewing water, and a posse of birds overhead. Birds like to follow the whales as they typically find “hot spots” of food.

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.

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