GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—Each summer, Florida’s sandy beaches attract thousands of sea turtles searching for the perfect spot to lay their eggs. But in the past 10 years, scientists have recorded a nearly 50 percent drop in sea turtle nesting along Florida’s coastline – home to 90 percent of sea turtle nesting in the U.S.
This worrisome trend has prompted conservation groups, researchers and coastal counties to step up their efforts to help sea turtles survive. Through the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is funded entirely by sales of the sea turtle specialty license plate, groups around Florida are receiving grants supporting education, conservation and research projects benefiting Florida sea turtles.
This year grants totaling more than $335,000 were awarded to 15 different organizations and local governments. The nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation, which administers the Sea Turtle Grants Program, hopes the projects chosen for support this year give sea turtles a better chance at survival.
Launched in 1996, the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate raises money for two important programs that benefit Florida sea turtles—the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program and the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which distributes money back to the local level for turtle conservation projects. Funding for the grants program is awarded through a competitive application process that is open to coastal county governments, educational institutions and Florida-based nonprofit groups for projects involving research, education and conservation benefiting Florida sea turtles.
“People often ask me whether money from the sea turtle specialty plate actually goes toward sea turtle conservation,” said Godfrey. “In the case of the sea turtle specialty plate, every dime supports sea turtle conservation in Florida. The turtle tag really is a phenomenal success, and it is supporting great things on behalf of sea turtles.”
The sea turtle plate is the number two selling specialty tags in Florida, having sold 76,804 plates in 2009, second only to the University of Florida plate.
“It’s rewarding to know that so many people share our concern for Florida’s sea turtles,” said Godfrey. “What we do in this state has a dramatic impact on sea turtle populations around the world. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save these amazing creatures.”
To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org.
The following organizations received grants for the 2010-2011 cycle: Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at University of Florida; Brevard County Natural Resources Management; Caribbean Conservation Corporation; Clearwater Marine Aquarium; Florida Atlantic University; Hobe Sound Nature Center; Inwater Research Group; Lee County Division of Environmental Services; Mote Marine Laboratory; Sea to Shore Alliance; Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island; The Conservancy of Southwest Florida; The Turtle Hospital; University of Central Florida; University of Georgia Research Foundation – Natural Resources.
Background: The “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate authorization legislation (FS 320.08058 (19)) was passed by the Florida legislature in 1997. The plates were first offered for sale in February, 1998. The turtle tags cost $23.00 above the normal Florida license plate fee. Proceeds from the tag directly support two sea turtle related programs in Florida. Seventy percent of the revenue is earmarked for the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Program, which is a part of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. The remaining thirty percent of revenue is routed through the nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation, which disburses the funding through the Sea Turtle Grants Program. For more information about the grants program, visitwww.helpingseaturtles.org.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website atwww.conserveturtles.org or call (800) 678-7853.