Category Archives: General

Leatherback turtle being satellite-tracked by STC found dead in Colombia

Caña the night she was tagged by STC in May

Caña the night she was tagged by STC in May

In May of this year, STC biologists tagged a leatherback turtle with a satellite transmitter after she nested at Chiriqui Beach, Panama. That same turtle, named “Caña” by local children, was spotted by tourists after it washed ashore in Salinas del Ray, Colombia in July. Caña was positively identified by her flipper tags and still-attached satellite transmitter.

After receiving information about Caña’s fate, STC began trying to piece together what happened to the massive turtle, which had been observed healthy and nesting just two months prior.

Caña’s transmitter began sending strong signals immediately after she was released. She even returned to nest one more time before beginning her migration east toward Colombia. Caña and her transmitter were providing invaluable scientific data and her migration route proved very interesting. For the first time one of STC’s satellite-tracked leatherbacks was heading to South America. STC researchers and thousands of people were tracking Caña’s journey online and could not wait to see where she would go next.

A map of Caña's journey

A map of Caña’s journey

In early July STC migration researcher Dan Evans noticed that Caña’s transmitter had been inactive for several days, which could have two possible explanations – that the transmitter had been damaged and could no longer send signals, or that Caña had not surfaced for some reason. The transmitter Caña was outfitted with is saltwater activated and sends a signal to orbiting satellites whenever the device breaks through the water’s surface, such as when she surfaces to breath or emerges onto shore.

Caña's tag

Caña’s tag

Evans was hesitant to jump to conclusions about Caña’s fate and hoped the transmitter was simply malfunctioning and would begin sending signals again soon. Days later, Caña’s transmitter began sending a very strong signal from the shores of Colombia. On July 8, STC received an email from the Environmental Corporation of the Atlantic in Barranquilla, Colombia, stating that a tourist had found a dead leatherback washed ashore with STC’s tags and contact information. It was Caña.

STC is still awaiting the results of Caña’s necropsy, but the satellite data is very telling. Her transmitter was inactive for three consecutive days, meaning she could have been trapped underwater and drowned. Colombian waters are filled with fishing nets that indiscriminately trap anything they entangle. It is likely that Caña met her fate in one of these nets.

Caña was found washed ashore in Colombia

Caña was found washed ashore in Colombia

Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles and can only hold their breath for extended periods of time, such as when they are inactive or sleeping. If Caña was in fact trapped in a net, her struggling would have caused her to drown fairly quickly, This is only one possible explanation, but it is the most likely explanation.

Although stories like this are very sad to share, they demonstrate how important it is for STC to keep tracking sea turtles and to raise awareness about the very real threats all sea turtles face.

More photos here

5 Ways to Have a Sea Turtle-Friendly Summer Vacation

This is a guest post written by Hannah Helsabeck. Hannah is President and Co-Founder of, an online shop dedicated to helping families find toxin-free and Eco-friendly products for healthier lifestyles.

Summer vacations are a great opportunity to toss your cares away, have major fun in the sun, and create lots of memories with family and friends. If you seek beaches, campgrounds, or pretty much anywhere outside of the concrete jungle to relax, you’ll want to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind that can harm wildlife as you’re becoming one with nature.

It is estimated that more than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean and that more than 80 percent of this plastic comes from land. When we throw away or litter plastic items, they can wash out to sea from beaches, streets, and landfills. This pollution often kills wildlife like our precious sea turtles when they ingest it or become entangled in it. That’s why it’s so important to reduce the amount of plastic garbage we produce and seek safer, eco-friendly alternatives.

It’s our responsibility to reflect about the impact we all have on the environment that we share with other animals and there are lots of easy ways to live more eco-friendly lives.  So, as summer approaches, here are 5 simple ways to have a greener (and more sea turtle friendly!) summer vacation:

wildmint reusable bottleWater bottles. A huge offender when it comes to plastic waste is the use of disposable plastic water bottles. Staying hydrated is crucial, but there’s a better way to do it: switch to reusable water bottles. To shy away from plastic bottles and the potentially toxic chemicals used to make them, choose alternatives like glass water bottles or stainless steel instead. Simply refill with your favorite drinks and reuse for all of your adventures.  By making the switch you can help protect our planet, avoid chemicals like BPA/BPS, and reduce your amount of plastic waste.

Tiny turtle in a glass food containers

Tiny fruit turtle in a glass food container

Food containers and baggies. Bringing your own food with you while traveling on vacation is a great way to stay healthy and save money, but plastic containers and bags are not so great for the environment. Plastic bags, big and small, are a huge contributor to marine pollution. Plastic does not biodegrade, meaning that the bag you use once and throw away is sticking around somewhere for a very, very long time. The best way to help reduce this plastic pollution is to completely avoid buying these products and instead opt for non-plastic, reusable sandwich bags and glass food containers (like the one shown with the kiwi turtle!) to pack foods.

Sea turtle friendly summer vacation spots. If you plan on visiting the beach or staying at a hotel on the water, you can check to see if it is sea turtle friendly, meaning that the facility supports conservation through its lighting policies and educational activities. Click here to learn which vacation spots get the STC seal of approval!

DO Naturals sunscreen is certified organic aloe

Natural sun protection. Protect your family from the chemicals found in many sunscreens on the shelf by doing a little more research and choosing natural sunscreen and insect repellent. These mineral-based sunscreens reduce your exposure to the harsh chemicals that can mimic hormones once absorbed in the body found in chemical sunscreens. These products also help to keep these toxic chemicals out of the environment so both plant and animal species can avoid exposure as well.

Straws. Nothing makes a drink feel extra special than a fun straw! Unfortunately, single use disposable straws add to the harmful effects of plastic pollution on the environment. Thankfully there are reusable straws made with stainless steel and glass that are beautiful and eco-friendly. Now you can pop a festive straw in your tropical drink and enjoy knowing that your sustainable choice makes a difference for the better.

In celebration of summer vacations and eco-friendly fun, Wild Mint Shop would like to offer a special discount to Sea Turtle Conservancy readers. Please enjoy 10% off all purchases through June 30, 2015 by using the coupon code TURTLES at checkout. You can find a variety of the reusable and non-toxic products listed in this article and more on Wild Mint

UPDATE: TRIP FULL! Join STC for a Cuba Sea Turtle & Cultural Expedition in September 2015

Photo of Havana by Andrea Holbrook

Photo of Havana by Andrea Holbrook

For the first time ever, STC is partnering with the Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program, The Ocean Foundation and Holbrook Travel to offer a Sea Turtle and Cultural Expedition to Cuba from September 4th-12th, 2015. Deadline to sign up in July 1st!

Participants will visit Havana, the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Vinales over the course of the expedition. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE OFFICIAL ITINERARY.

Participants will have the opportunity to look for turtles coming ashore on the beaches of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and observe the nesting process.

The group will return to a turtle nesting beach the following day to document any tracks from the previous night.

Hours later, participants will return to the turtle beach where they will have the opportunity to help the researchers measure the turtles and record data.

Program highlights:

Photo of Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

Photo of Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

  • Travel with two experts from the Sea Turtle Conservancy and a Cuban marine turtle specialist.
  • Observe the nesting process of green sea turtles and collect data with biologists.
  • Snorkel the clear waters of the coral reef at Maria la Gorda (optional scuba diving may also be available at an additional charge).
  • Meet with local conservationists, marine researchers and a wildlife artist.
  • Visit the picturesque town of Vinales.
  • Stop at Hemingway’s home, Finca La Vigia.
  • Support the ongoing research and conservation projects of The Ocean Foundation
Photo of the view from the tower at Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

Photo of the view from the tower at Finca La Vigia by Michelle Korczynski

Participants will also enjoy activities such as a walking tour of Old Havana, a visit to the National Museum of Natural History, a visit to the Alamar Organoponic Gardens and leisure time.

The Center for Marine Research has hosted similar trips in the last couple of years, but this is the first time this experience will be made available to U.S. Citizens without special permits following the change in Cuban-American policy announced by President Obama and the State Department earlier this year. Both STC and Center for Marine Research experts will host the expedition.

Cuba Marine Research and Conservation photo of a nesting green sea turtle at Guanahacabibes National Park

Cuba Marine Research and Conservation photo of a nesting green sea turtle at Guanahacabibes National Park

The beaches of the Guanahacabibes National Park are home to the second largest breeding population of green sea turtles in Cuba with an average of more than 300 nests per season.

2013 was a record year for the park’s beaches with nearly 900 nests recorded!

Through the efforts of University of Havana’s Center for Marine Investigations, an estimated 14,000 hatchlings were saved. You will get to participate directly in this successful Cuban conservation program, with a portion of your trip fees going directly to support this ongoing work.

Program pricing:

  • $3189 plus airfare

Cost includes gratuities, Miami/Tampa hotel and donations to the Cuban Society for the Protection of the Environment and Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Cost does not include international airfare estimated at $600 from Miami or Tampa (estimate includes visa fee).

Information and registration:

Sea Turtle Friendly Summer Vacation Spots

Before you head to the beach with your family this summer, make sure to check that your hotel is sea turtle friendly! This includes things such as lighting, educational activities and support of local sea turtle conservation efforts. Check out our list below for a sample of some sea turtle friendly resorts in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean:

Courtyard Jacksonville Beach Oceanfront, Jacksonville, FL

In addition to being recognized as a Green Lodging Property by the State of Florida, the Courtyard Jacksonville Beach Oceanfront was also recognized as one of the Most Sea Turtle Eco-Friendly Hotels by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The resort supports the local sea turtle group, the GTM Research Reserve Sea Turtle Patrol Program and gives guests an opportunity to adopt nests.


Colony Club, Barbados

SUP dude? For an unforgettable animal encounter, guests will love Colony Club’s stand-up paddle board (SUP) and turtle swim excursion. Starting out on the white, warm sands of Barbados’ renowned beach, travelers will paddle out to The Lone Star Restaurant, one of the local, turtle hangouts, and dive into the crystal blue waters to get up-close-and-personal with the island’s friendliest marine animals – the once-endangered population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles.

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Vero Beach, FL

20012 TDT Disney releaseDisney’s Vero Beach Resort shares its shores with nesting loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles. In keeping with founder Walt Disney’s conservation legacy, the resort was specifically designed to create minimal impact on the turtles’ nesting patterns. The resort’s east-facing windows are tinted to diminish the impact of interior lighting and there are no exterior lights facing the ocean. This allows for hatchlings to guided to the ocean by natural moonlight, rather than to be distracted by other harmful lighting and drawn further inland. Guests staying at the resort can sign up for expert-led Turtle Walks to see a nesting turtle on the beach at night. Each year, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is also a release site for STC’s annual Tour de Turtles, which begins in August this year.

Sandpearl Resort at Clearwater Beach, Clearwater Beach, FL

The Sandpearl Resort offers a kids camp, Camp Ridley, that uses educational activities to teach children about Florida’s unique wildlife. Activities offered include nature walks, scavenger hunts and arts and crafts with Ridley the Sea Turtle, the camp’s mascot. The Sandpearl Resort also offers a range of enrichment program, including a behind-the-scenes tour of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to learn how rescued dolphins and sea turtles are cared for in the aquarium’s working marine hospital.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

IMG_0458Three species of sea turtles – hawksbill, leatherback and green – nest on the tiny West Indies island every summer. And for more than 10 years a group of nesting season volunteers has worked day and night to monitor nests and do everything they can to protect the endangered sea turtles. The Four Seasons Resort Nevis does its part too, training its staff to spot turtle tracks and mark off nesting sites so they won’t be disturbed. Guests can also take part in nighttime Turtle Watch Walks with the Nevis Turtle Group. For younger guests, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis runs a sea turtle day camp, and thanks to GPS satellite tags kids can “adopt” two sea turtles and track them online year-round. Join Sea Turtle Conservancy and Four Seasons Nevis for our Annual Tour de Turtles Weekend July 10-13 as we release two satellite tagged critically endangered hawksbill turtles near the resort!

CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort & JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, Cancun, Mexico

The CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa’s Sea Turtle Protection program saves an average of 3,000 endangered baby turtles each year. From June through September, marine biologists guide the staff in preparing and caring for nesting areas on the beach. Guests at the resorts are invited to participate in the release of the baby turtles, and can do so by calling concierge to find out if turtles will be released on a given night.

Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, Jupiter, FL

tour lmcGuests of the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa are given the opportunity to observe endangered loggerheads, leatherbacks and green sea turtles laying eggs during the annual nesting season. To witness the phenomenon without risk of disturbing the sea turtles, guests are encouraged to sign up for the Escorted Turtle Walks offered by the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, which is located just minutes from the resort. At the center, visitors learn about the nesting process and are invited to return later in the evening to observe a turtle laying eggs if there is any nesting activity. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet turtles that are being rehabilitated at the center.

The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL

The Ritz-Carlton bases its kids program, Ritz Kids, on four pillars: water, land, environmental responsibility and culture. Nature’s Wonders, a program offered through Ritz Kids, allows little adventurers ages 5 – 12, to learn about and discover nature in a colorful, living eco-sanctuary, featuring 11 aquariums that house sea creatures like sharks, crabs, turtles, alligators and eels. Nature’s Wonders promotes awareness of and respect for Florida’s natural beauty and its sensitive ecosystems.

Acqualina Resort & Spa, Miami, FL

Acqualina Resort & Spa offers a variety of wildlife-themed adventure programs for kids, including a sea turtle-themed program offered during nesting season.  The programs include eco-explorations, trivia challenges, scavenger hunts and other fun-filled activities. These programs are offered through AcquaMarine, the resort’s new marine biology program for kids ages 5 to 12 years old.


Islander Resort, Islamorada, FL

An official Guy Harvey Outpost, the Islander Resort is sometimes chosen as a release site for The Turtle Hospital (Marathon, FL) patients. Most recently, Miley the Loggerhead was released here on May 2nd. The resort also has a Marine Science Camp designed for kids, adults and families.

Turtle Beach, Barbados
Turtles nest on the 1,500 foot stretch of white sand this resort sits upon. The all-inclusive Turtle Beach resort protects its favorite animals by muting its beachfront lighting and by partnering with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project to help facilitate the birthing process. The Turtle Beach staff also participates in regular coastal clean ups to protect the turtles’ habitat, while their elite team of Turtle Pioneers teach guests about island conservation efforts.

The Resort at Longboat Key Club & Lido Beach Resort, Sarasota, FL

Just minutes away from The Resort at Longboat Key Club and Lido Beach Resort, Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium has treated and released more than 100 sea turtles at their rehabilitation center and monitors more than 35 miles of Longboat Key’s nesting beaches. Back at the resorts, kids will love spending a day at Camp Loggerhead and embarking on the Children’s Beach Walk & Turtle Talk. They’ll learn about some of the ocean’s longest-living creatures and even get to take home their own plush turtle toy.

Celebrate Endangered Species Day!

BIC Endangered Species Day

The tenth annual national Endangered Species Day is May 15, 2015! Endangered Species Day was created by Congress in 2006 and is a day to raise awareness of the many endangered, threatened and at-risk species and the critical role they play.

Many zoos, parks, gardens, wildlife refuges, museums, schools and community centers, among other participants, will host educational events to further promote and celebrate Endangered Species Day and the reasoning behind its creation. To find an event near you, visit

If you’re in the Melbourne Beach area, come to our Endangered Species Day Event at the Barrier Island Center on Saturday, May 16th! See image above for details.

esdEndangered Species Day is a great platform for highlighting the success of some species in recovering from being endangered. Many species, including the green sea turtle, are considered success stores because of the significant strides they have made toward recovery as a result of policy implementations and other actions designed to protect them.

All sea turtles in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act, which was created in 1978. The act grants green sea turtles protection by the NOAA Fisheries in the ocean and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) in their beach nesting habitats along U.S. coasts.

During the nesting season of 1990, fewer than 50 green sea turtles were documented at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast. During the nesting season of 2003, 13,000 nests were recorded on the same beaches. This comeback makes green sea turtles one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time. The species’ success can be attributed to the Endangered Species Act, STC and all other supporters who worked tirelessly to give green sea turtles a fighting chance.

Ralph Pace Endangered Species Day

Here are some tips from STC and the to help you participate and celebrate Endangered Species Day:

1. Learn about endangered species in your area.
The best way to protect endangered species is learning about them and how they’re important. So teach yourself and educate those around you on the benefits of endangered species. STC’s educational program empowers sea turtle groups throughout Florida by providing educational materials and uses sea turtle migration tracking as an online educational tool.

Archie Carr refuge sign2. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space.
These places are home to a lot of different species, and preserving an endangered species’ habitat is essential to protecting the species. You can help by visiting a refuge close to where you live and become a volunteer. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida is a major safe haven for sea turtles. The refuge is where about 25% of all the sea turtle nesting in Florida occurs.

3. Make your home wildlife friendly.
Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids and feed pets indoors to avoid attracting wild animals to your home. Taking these actions can keep animals like raccoons, which are sea turtle predators, away. Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival. If you live on the beach you can make your home sea turtle friendly by implementing sea turtle lighting.

Volunteers plant sea oats at the ACNWR during the 2014 workshop

Volunteers plant sea oats at the ACNWR during the 2014 workshop

4. Plant native plants.
Native plants provide food and shelter for native animals. You can plant sea oats on the beach to help prevent dune erosion and provide habitat for sea turtle nesting. STC conducts native dune vegetation planting to provide an additional buffer to reduce or eliminate unwanted light on the beach and to enhance nesting habitat at various project sites in the Florida panhandle.

5. Stay away from herbicides and pesticides.
Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice, but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in soil and throughout the food chain. For alternatives to pesticides, visit

STPS-attention-boaters-sign-263x3006. Slow down when driving and/or boating
One of the main obstacles for wildlife in developed areas is roads. Animals that live in developed areas navigate in areas full of human hazards and roads present wildlife with a dangerous threat. So when you’re driving, slow down and be on the lookout for wildlife. You should also apply these practices while boating to avoid harming sea turtles and other endangered species in the water.

7. Recycle and buy sustainable products
Recycle anything that can be recycled and buy sustainable products! Avoid single-use plastic such as water bottles, plastic bags, etc. Some of our favorite eco-friendly products can be found online at Wild Mint Shop.

8. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species.
Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the market for illegal wildlife products such as tortoise-shell, ivory and coral. Hawksbill sea turtle shells are often used to be made into sunglasses, jewelry and other trinkets because of their beautiful shell pattern. Learn more about the threat of illegal shell trade here.


The True Value of Sea Turtles

Written by Dr. Wallace J Nichols

This essay first appeared in the annual State of the World’s Sea Turtles report. Dr Nichols writes more about the cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits of healthy, wild nature in his New York Times bestseller Blue Mind. You can also read a version of this blog post on The Huffington Post.


Can you recall a time that you glimpsed a sea turtle swimming away from you under water?

Loggerhead hatchling Photo credit: Karrie Singel

Loggerhead hatchling
Photo credit: Karrie Singel

Or you witnessed the multimillion-year-old ritual of a nesting turtle burying 100 glistening white eggs under the sand and moon?

Or the first time you carefully placed a baby sea turtle, hatched minutes prior, on the sand and watched it duck-dive wave after wave as it pushed its way seaward to begin an uncertain decades-long journey?

Of course you can.

It’s moments like those that led you to the curiosity and exploration you’re having now as you read. Those experiences transformed us, made us into the turtle warriors we are. Face it, how many of your high school friends are reading about global sea turtle population trends right now?

None, that’s how many. So, how did that feeling of awe convert into what may be best described as a life dedicated to turtle-centric altruism?

A typical, oft-repeated and unquestioned adage is: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Those of us who do environmental management, who have been involved with successful conservation work and movement building, know that statement is BS. The most important things we manage are not (easily) measurable — from the quality of our new team members to the awe and wonder that’s at the root of why we care in the first place. Our greatest successes sometimes occur: (a) In spite of government agencies’ denials of decades of well-considered science, (b) In the face of barely quantified threats, or (c) Alongside massive holes in our understanding of basic sea turtle biology and life history.

Green Sea Turtle Photo Credit: Ralph Pace

Green Sea Turtle Photo Credit: Ralph Pace

The “measure to manage” dogma found its place as militaristic styles expanded into business, and business expanded into our professional relationship with nature in the post-World War II industrial era. The language of targets, tactics, strategies and enemies now pervades agency- and NGO-speak alike. But, when the value of sea turtles to humans is reduced to what’s easily measured with our standard metrics and sorely limited resources, we run the risk of getting things dangerously wrong.

Ecology and economics provide a clean, clear, yet wildly incomplete, even cartoon-like framework for analyzing the values of nature. Consider this familiar balance sheet. In one column (A) is the commodified value of sea turtles as resource: eggs, meat, shell, oil. In the next, (B) is the value of sea turtles as eco-tourist attractions: hotel rooms, park fees, guides, meals, travel. If the number at the bottom of column B exceeds the value of column A, sea turtles get to live (in theory, at least).

The conversation has been expanded in recent years to include a third column called “ecosystem services” that provide public benefits. Those benefits include dune stabilization, sea grass maintenance and even climate regulation, as provided by the trophic cascades, at the top of which are often found sea turtles and other predators.

Fortunately, the conversation around valuing nature is expanding quickly to include the cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits that we know are real drivers of the human nature relationship. When neuropsychologists and conservation biologists team up, the results can be revolutionary. Consider a few of the real but rarely described benefits of working with sea turtles.

Awe and Wonder

New research suggests that the feeling of awe is good for our health, boosts empathy and compassion, and helps connect us to the people and places around us.

Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Feelings of awe are some of the most cherished and transformative experiences in human life and are generated by art, music, architecture, but most often nature. Dr. Paul Piff of the School of Sociology at University of California Irvine defines awe as “the sense of being in the presence of something bigger than oneself that current knowledge structures cannot accommodate and that allows people to rise above stimulus-response patterns and lose themselves in an all-encompassing event.”

Scientists have made evolutionary arguments for the universality of awe and how it has likely evolved. Other studies find that awe may enhance our memory of events, play an important role in morality, make people less self-focused and more prosocial, lead to enhanced generosity, increase virtuous behavior, reduce feelings of entitlement and increase helping. Current studies show that feelings associated with awe can reduce cytokines (proteins important for cell signaling), chemicals associated with disease and even inflammation.

Yet, some people live wonder-free lives. For those who work with sea turtles, awe can be a daily experience. When we share our work, we make the world better. More sea turtle lovers equal more ocean advocates — a virtuous, positive feedback loop.

Solitude and Privacy

Our lives are becoming more and more connected, and time spent truly alone with ourselves and our own thoughts is sadly minimized. A recent study in Science demonstrates how uncomfortable solitude feels to college students: two-thirds of men pressed a button to deliver a painful jolt after a mere 15-minute period of solitude. One man — considered an outlier — found quiet thinking to be so disagreeable that he opted for a shock 190 times.

In these modern times, our written and spoken words, as well as our physical movements, are almost constantly monitored by strangers, government agencies and marketers. And this loss of solitude and privacy adds to the stress of life.

Being near, in, on or under water can be a refuge or escape, and that relationship can have the same positive benefits mentioned earlier for awe and wonder. A beach or a bay can provide a rare retreat from technology. And those are the settings in which work frequently places us fortunate souls who are turtle professionals.

Creativity and Inspiration

Green turtle photo by Julie Suess

Green turtle photo by Julie Suess

Artists and engineers, musicians and entrepreneurs, writers and scientists rely heavily on their ability to generate creativity — combine old ideas and pieces to make new ones — to think of things that have never been thought of. It’s no surprise that great thinkers such as Sir Isaac Newton, Oliver Sacks and Albert Einstein found inspiration outside under a blue sky or beside flowing waters. Free from walls and over- stimulation of modern, urban existence, our brains work differently. That’s not to say better, but there’s a certain kind of expansive thinking that’s facilitated by blue space.

Perhaps there’s no better place to experience awe, creativity, inspiration, privacy, solitude and wonder than on a sea turtle beach. Humans have depicted their appreciation for the ocean and sea turtles through art for millennia. You’ve had much the same experience as our ancestors on the beach at night, face to face with our beloved chelonians. As a conservation or research professional, student, seasonal volunteer or wayfaring traveler, being with sea turtles in nature changes us. We become better versions of ourselves.

These are big ideas that are tricky to assign numbers to, but important to put into words, with ever-increasing clarity and rigor. Quite literally — as well as poetically — being with sea turtles is good medicine. And here’s a prediction: In the not-so-distant future, medical professionals will prescribe two weeks of volunteering on a turtle beach for what ails their patients.


Tour de Turtles Sponsor Spotlight – Pacsafe

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) pacsafe logo2is excited to welcome new turtle sponsor Pacsafe to the Tour de Turtles (TdT) marathon this year! Pacsafe is sponsoring a green turtle who will be tagged and released from Tortuguero, Costa Rica in July. Along with their turtle competitor sponsorship, Pacsafe recently launched the Pacsafe Turtle Fund which will also provide support for the TdT educational program.

Outpac Designs Limited, the makers of Pacsafe, was established in 1998 by two Australian friends who traveled all over the world. Their own experiences and those of the travelers they met convinced them of the need for secure travel gear. From there, the eXomesh anti-theft technology was born, which formed the award-winning Pacsafe anti-theft backpack protector, complete with turtle logo.

Pacsafe’s creators were initially inspired by the sea turtle and its independent global wanderings. Today, Pacsafe’s Turtle Fund works with local communities at grass roots levels to preserve the sea turtle, protect its natural habitats, focus on breeding programs and increase awareness for these majestic creatures.

Pacsafe's official turtle mascot, Pawi.

Pacsafe’s official turtle mascot, Pawi.

“As a company, we believe in sustainability and doing everything we can to work with local communities to ensure the sea turtle doesn’t become extinct,” said Magnus McGlashan, Managing Director for Pacsafe.

After the fund was launched in May 2014, it worked to provide funds for sea turtle conservation projects around the world that support endangered turtle species. Pacsafe chose to support three sea turtle projects in 2015, including the Tour de Turtles, which were chosen for their innovative approaches to turtle conservation, research and education.

“We loved how Tour de Turtles makes sea turtle conservation educational and fun, while making it accessible to a greater audience and younger generation,” McGlashan said.

Pacsafe has chosen to name its turtle competitor “Pawikan.” McGlashan explained that Pawikan means ‘sea turtle,’ in Tagalog, the language spoken in much of the Philippines. Pawikan is also the official name of the turtle featured in the Pacsafe logo that was selected five years ago in a competition.

Photo by:  Lucas Meers

Photo by: Lucas Meers

Pacsafe hopes to engage its staff, distributors, retailers and customers all over the world with the excitement of the TdT race and its mission. McGlashan said that Pacsafe is very excited about being a part of the program and following its sponsored turtle throughout her adventures.

“We can’t wait to see where [she] wanders!” McGlashan said.

STC would like to thank Pacsafe for helping our cause! You will be able to track Pawikan and her turtle friends online at starting August 2nd! Good luck, Pawikan!

Support wildlife conservation by purchasing a specialty license plate in your state!

It’s been 20 years since Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) led the successful campaign to create a sea turtle license plate in Florida. Now, two decades later, the Helping Sea Turtles Survive license plate is the top selling environmental plate in the state. Revenue generated by the sea turtle tag stretches a long way. Seventy percent of the plate’s proceeds fund the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program (MTPP). The remaining funds are routed through STC, which distributes funding annually through the Sea Turtle Grants Program (STGP).  Since its establishment, the STGP has been able to award more than $4 million in grants to more than 230 sea turtle research, conservation and education projects (

plateMany other states have similar license plates that also help raise money for sea turtles or local wildlife. Check out our list below!

  •  Endangered Species (South Carolina) The plate features the official state reptile, the loggerhead sea turtle, and the funds are used by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to conserve and protect the state’s endangered and threatened species. ( plate
  •  Jekyll Island Sea Turtle plate (Georgia) – The tag was introduced in 2010 and the funds it produces provide financial support for the Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. The plate also increases awareness of the center on Jekyll Island and the work it is doing to protect and treat injured sea turtles on Georgia’s coast. ( Island Plate
  • “Save the sea turtles” (North Carolina) The plate fee is $20, and $10 of every purchase is returned to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.( plate
  • Save the Ridley (Texas) The plate is part of an initiative lead by Casa Tortuga, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to promoting the protection of threatened and endangered sea turtles, that aims to establish a specialty license plate to benefit Texas-based sea turtle conservation efforts.(
  • Whale Tail (California) “Save the beach. Buy a plate.” Sponsored by the California Coastal Commission; funds are used to support coastal education efforts such as the annual Coastal Cleanup Day, the year ‘round “Adopt a Beach” program, and the Whale Tail grants program.( whale plate
  •  Environmental Education (Louisiana) “Buy a plate to educate.” Supports funding of environmental education grants for educators and students, the annual Environmental Education Symposium, etc. ( plate
  •  Bald Eagle “Give Wildlife a Chance” plate (Georgia): fund benefits endangered and nongame wildlife and plants through conservation, education, land acquisition and recreation projects. ( eagle plate
  •  Osprey Plate “Conservation through Education” (Rhode Island): supports environmental conservation through education at the Audobon Society m of Rhode Island or Save the Bay. ( RI plate

Many states have some sort of wildlife conservation specialty license plate, and this is not a comprehensive list. If your state doesn’t offer a wildlife conservation plate, or even if you just want to add some sea turtle love to your vehicle, check out our replica sea turtle license plate! It can be added to the front of your vehicle, the window or anywhere you see fit and is just $12.95. 

You can also purchase a sea turtle frame for your standard license plate from Blue Marlin License Frames. Ten percent of each purchase is donated to STC! 627250_orig

Volunteers Spay Dogs Near Critical Nesting Beaches in Tortuguero

COSTARICASPAYPS_Page_1On World Spay Day 2015, medical volunteers from VIDA Volunteer Travel spayed and neutered over 20 dogs in the Tortuguero community for free, with support from STC. The overpopulation of stray dogs and pets in Tortuguero, Costa Rica can be dangerous for the local sea turtle population.

In Central America, it is common for many communities to permit their domesticated dogs and cats to run free in coastal villages. These dogs, left unattended, can dig up several sea turtle nests in one night. With as few as one in 10,000 eggs reaching adulthood, the destruction of only a few nests can have a devastating effect on any sea turtle population. Dogs eat the eggs and hatchlings and, in some cases, can even attack adult females while they nest.

Predation is not only a problem for sea turtles and their hatchlings in Central America, but also around the world. Crabs, raccoons, boars, birds, coyotes and sharks all play their role in the natural food chain as sea turtle predators. However, the threats of predation increase when human development reaches nesting beaches. People who leave trash near the shore, for example, unwittingly call raccoons and other non-native species to the beaches to look for food.

COSTARICASPAYPS_Page_2Nest predation can be a very serious threat. In certain “predation hot spots” on nesting beaches in the United States predation can exceed 50% of all nests laid. While sea turtles have developed special adaptations that allow them to be agile in water, they remain clumsy on land. They are not fast enough, or agile enough to escape these predators. Unable to retract their heads and flippers into their shell, like land tortoises, sea turtles are very vulnerable to these invasive predators.

Humans can play a vital role in decreasing the threat of invasive species predation. Here are a few ways you can help protect the sea turtles.

  • Don’t feed wildlife—animals will make a habit of returning to coastal areas in search for food, creating a threat to turtles;
  • Don’t leave your dogs and cats unattended;
  • Do not leave any trash, especially garbage containing food, outside of your home;
  • Support spay and neuter programs near coastal areas to decrease feral invasive species predation;
  • Contact your local law enforcement if you witness any predation on sea turtle nests or hatchlings.


Take a closer look at the hard work and dedication of the medical volunteers participating in World Spay Day 2015!

ACTION ALERT! Amendment 1 Spending Still Needs Your Voice!

75% of Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in November 2014. However, over the past 7 weeks of the Florida Legislative Session, Amendment 1 has run into resistance from leaders in both the House and Senate. The Florida Legislature should trust that the voters knew exactly what they were approving with Amendment 1.

fund florida forever

Now is the time to renew our pleas for increased spending from Amendment 1 for parks and wildlife habitat.  The Senate budget offers a stingy $37 million for land acquisition, partly targeted to springs.

Against the Senate budget, Governor Scott’s budget offers a compelling framework for funding conservation needs. However, neither the House or Senate budget leaders support the governor’s A-1 spending plan.

The Governor’s  budget  proposes, and will put in permanent law, the following:

• $150 million annually for land acquisition and improved land management
• $150 million for the Everglades and a $5 billion pledge over 20 years
• $50 million for Springs recovery and a $1.6 billion pledge over 20 years

amendment 1 trust the votersThe Governor’s budget numbers line up favorably with the Water and Land Amendment Coalition’s proposal and fit with strategies to support existing Florida Forever priorities and Everglades restoration plans.

Surveys show that the voters clearly knew and expected  that Amendment 1 money  would  fund the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire land for conservation, habitat, parks and water resources protection.

Keep contacting your Representatives and Senators to reinforce that message. Click here to find their contact information.

If you call, please say: “Please support the using Amendment 1 fund to acquire land for parks, habitat, water resources, and to protect the Everglades and coastal areas.”

We have about 10 days left to let our elected leaders know that they must fully fund Florida Forever! In addition to contacting your legislators, please also contact Governor Scott and these key legislators involved in the budget process TODAY and tell them to fully fund Florida Forever!

Here is who you can contact:

  1. President of the Senate, Andy Gardiner, (850) 487-5013,
  2. Senator, Tom Lee, (850) 487-5024,
  3. Senator, Jack Latvala, (850) 487-5020,
  4. Speaker of the House, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, (850) 717-5051,
  5. Representative, Richard Corcoran, (850) 717-5037,
  6. Governor, Rick Scott, (850) 488-4441,
  7. Senator Alan Hays, (850) 487-5011,

It only takes a few minutes to make the call or email. Every call is a reminder to our legislators that they are accountable to the voters. We know how invested you are in seeing more money go toward protecting our environment and conserving the natural treasures we hold dear. That is the purpose of Amendment 1. For more info and resources, check out Florida’s Water and Land Legacy page.

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd!

color recycle turtle logoEarth Day is a day for us to think about how our lifestyles affect the planet, and it’s a great time to start making small changes to help keep our planet clean and safe for every creature that inhabits it, even humans! This Earth Day, and every day, we are focusing on the dangers of single-use plastic and as always, trying to incorporate the Four R’s into our daily routine–> Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Replenish!

If you’re in the Melbourne Beach area for Earth Day,  join us at the Barrier Island Center (BIC) on April 22 for mangrove potting starting at 5:30 PM followed by a Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting Workshop at 7:00 PM!

BIC lighting workshop

Here are 10 ideas to help you celebrate Earth Day and protect sea turtles!

wildmint reusable bottle1. Reduce the amount of garbage you produce by using reusable bags, water bottles, cups, coffee mugs, plates, bowls, silverware, etc. An easy way to help protect sea turtles and our environment is to get into the habit of recycling and buying products that allow you to avoid trashing plastic all together. More than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean, and an easy way to decrease that number is to reuse and recycle. We especially love the Eco-friendly products by Wild Mint. In honor of Earth Month, STC partnered with Wild Mint to give our supporters a 15% discount with code TURTLE! Visit to go green by April 30th!

2.  Become a Turtle Guardian!  Turtle Guardians are a special group of STC Members that help protect sea turtles by giving sustainable monthly donations. And since it’s Earth Month, Turtle Guardians who sign up during April at the $10/month level or higher will receive a FREE reusable grocery tote! Take this handy bag with you anywhere and ditch the plastic. To learn more or sign-up, click here.

A Kemp's Ridley is rescued after ingesting a balloon

A Kemp’s Ridley is rescued after ingesting a balloon

3. Spread the word about the dangers of helium balloon releases. Helium-filled balloons are frequently released into the sky to celebrate events. Like plastic trash, helium balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die. If you know of a group planning a balloon release, politely ask them to consider another attention-getter. Learn more at 

sea bags - turtle tote4. Use reusable bags when shopping. Plastic bags often end up in our waterways as litter, and sea turtles can confuse the bags for a jellyfish and try to eat them. Reusable bags now come in all different styles and are far more practical than a plastic/paper bag that will easily rip. We especially love this sea turtle bag from Sea Bags. The bag itself is made out of a re-purposed boat sail. How cool is that?! From April 22-29, Sea Bags will donate $25 from each sea turtle bag purchased back to STC! Visit to purchase.

caribe sup tortuga board in water5. Get outdoors! A great way to spend Earth Day is enjoying the beautiful outdoors and spot some wildlife on Earth Day is by hitting the nearest spring, river or beach for some stand-up paddle boarding (SUPing). Support sea turtles while you SUP by purchasing a Caribe Sup Tortuga paddle board. Caribe SUP donates $20 of each paddle board purchased to STC AND your Tortuga paddle board comes with a sea turtle adoption! Visit for more information.

6. Participate in a beach clean-up: Another great way to get outdoors and help the environment is to participate in a beach, park, river or neighborhood clean-up! Work with local groups or your school to organize a clean-up to clear our planet of trash that could harm wildlife.

7. Help sea turtles every time you drive. If you’re a Florida resident, purchase a “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate for your vehicle! Proceeds from the sale of the sea turtle plate go to support Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Program and help fund the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The grants program awards around $300,000 each year to support research, education and rehabilitation projects that benefit Florida’s sea turtles. Click here to see what projects were funded this year. To learn more about purchasing a plate, visit 

Secondwave - Ralph Pace hatchling raised flipper8. Donate your old phones to SecondWave Recycling! SecondWave focuses solely on recycling cell phones. The materials that go into a cell phone have more than just one life and can be used for new technology. This program keeps phones out of landfills which, prevent harmful toxins from potentially seeping into waterways, and donates 100% of the wholesale value of the phone back to STC! Simply visit Secondwave’s Website to fill out a request for an envelope or print your own label and select ‘Sea Turtle Conservancy’ as your charity. Visit for more information!

9. Green your garden! Use compost and mulch to prevent the growth of weeds and
preserve moisture, keeping your water usage low. Research what plants and vegetables are native to your area to help reduce your use of pesticides and fertilizers that can contaminate our water ways from runoff. Switch to biodegradable lawn and garden products and find facilities that properly dispose of toxicchemicals. To find a recycling and collection facility near you, check out Earth911‘s site at apparel word soup tshirt

10. Spread the word in creative ways! Love sea turtles and care about the environment? Show it on your shirt! Our friends at Loggerhead Apparel are donating 50% of all sales to sea turtle conservation for Earth Day! No special codes required. We especially love this “Word Soup” t-shirt.  Every word on this shirt describes either the loggerhead sea turtle or our mission to help save these creatures. A walking conversation piece! Purchase this shirt (or any shirt you like!) and STC will receive half the price!

There are so many easy, daily ways everyone can help sea turtles and the environment that might have been a surprise to you and will probably be a surprise to others. Make sure to share this information with your friends! How will you celebrate Earth Day? Tell us on our Facebook page for a chance to win a special Earth Day prize!

Sea Turtle Grants Program Awards More Than $296,000 to Support Sea Turtle Research, Conservation and Education in Florida

The Sea Turtle Grants Program (STGP), funded by the sale of Florida’s Helping Sea Turtles Survive specialty license plate, recently awarded $296,838 to 26 different projects benefiting Florida sea turtles as part of the 2015-2016 grant funding cycle.

plateEach year, the Sea Turtle Grants Program distributes money to coastal county governments, educational institutions and nonprofit groups through a competitive application process. The sea turtle specialty license plate is also the primary source of funding for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program.

The following organizations received grants for their approved projects for the 2015-2016 cycle:

STC’s Tour de Turtles program is partially funded by a grant from the STGP

The sea turtle plate is the number two overall selling specialty tag in Florida, and the number one environmental specialty plate. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty license plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save endangered sea turtles and their habitats.

To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, please visit

Do not disturb Florida’s nesting sea turtles


It can be thrilling to watch a sea turtle crawl onto the beach at night and dig a large hole in the sand to lay dozens of eggs. Just remember that “Do not disturb” is the best behavior to follow when observing a nesting sea turtle.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks people not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles.

Spring is the beginning of sea turtle nesting season in Florida. From now through the end of October, thousands of sea turtles will land on Atlantic and Gulf coast beaches to lay their eggs.

Loggerhead returns to sea after nesting (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington)

Loggerhead returns to sea after nesting (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington)

With Florida hosting one of the largest loggerhead nesting aggregations in the world, this becomes an opportunity for residents and visitors to play an important role in conserving these long-lived reptiles. People can help by taking turtle-friendly precautions on the beach.

“Take care when you’re on a Florida beach at night and do not disturb the nesting sea turtles,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “People can help save threatened and endangered sea turtles by giving them enough space and privacy to safely and successfully lay their eggs. It’s as simple as keeping your distance and avoiding shining lights or taking flash photos of the nesting sea turtles.”

Loggerheads, leatherbacks and green turtles are the primary species of sea turtles that nest in the Sunshine State. Loggerheads had another good nesting year in 2014 with 86,870 nests recorded statewide.

“Conservation actions of Floridians and visitors to the state may have contributed to the general upward trend in sea turtle nest numbers in recent years. That’s wonderful news for the sea turtles,” said Trindell. “However, these species still face significant threats during their long-distance oceanic migrations. Whatever we can do to help our sea turtles will make a difference.”

Ways to protect nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings:

  • Remain at a distance from nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.
  • Remove chairs, canopies, boats and other items from the beach at night, because they block the movement of turtles and hatchings.
  • Turn off or shield lights along the beach, in order to prevent hatchlings from getting confused and going toward lights on land instead of the salt water, where they belong.

    Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings crawl to sea (Photo credit: Blair Witherington)

    Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings crawl to sea
    (Photo credit: Blair Witherington)

  • Use red LED flashlights on the beach at night, adjust cell phone screens to dark mode and don’t take flash photos.
  • Fill in holes that people dug in the sand during the day, so nesting sea turtles and hatchlings don’t fall in and get stuck there at night.
  • Correctly dispose of fishing line, so it won’t entangle sea turtles and other animals.
  • Remember it is illegal to harm, harass or take sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings, including getting too close to a nesting female.
  • Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC).

Support Florida’s sea turtles by purchasing the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” license tag at Tag funds go toward sea turtle research, rescue and conservation efforts. People also can donate $5 and receive an FWC sea turtle decal. For decals or to learn more about sea turtles, go to

To see 2014 statewide nesting totals, go to, then click on “Wildlife” and “Sea Turtles” and then “Nesting.”

Second-grade students raise money for sea turtles through Read-A-Thon


Second-grade students from Muller Elementary Magnet School learning about sea turtles and the various threats they face.

Second-grade students from Muller Elementary Magnet School in Tampa, Fla. recently donated nearly $190 to STC after participating in a read-a-thon.

Back in September 2014, Linda Grady, Muller Elementary’s media specialist, started giving lessons to the school’s second graders about sea turtles and the threats they face. During one lesson, the classes played a sea turtle survival game where some students were “threats,” such as fishing nets and oil spills, and other students were “sea turtles” trying to swim across the room. Also, each of the three classes that participated in the lessons adopted a turtle during the 2014 Tour de Turtles marathon and regularly checked its progress.

Linda Grady, Muller Elementary’s media specialist, and second-grade students track turtles during the 2014 Tour de Turtles marathon.

Linda Grady, Muller Elementary’s media specialist, and second-grade students tracking sea turtles during the 2014 Tour de Turtles marathon.

With the students already curious, it made perfect sense to create a community service project to benefit sea turtles. Before the read-a-thon, which took place in January 2015, students asked friends and family to sponsor their reading efforts. Sponsors gave donations to the student based on how many books he or she read, and the proceeds were donated directly to STC.

During the two-week event, the 52 students who participated read a combined 533 books, and one student in particular read an impressive 24 books! The grand total raised by the students for their reading efforts was $189.37.

Grady said the read-a-thon experience was rewarding for both students and teachers, and she would certainly host another project such as this in the future.

point     books     read

STC and FWC Host 18th Annual Florida Marine Turtle Permit Holder Meeting

Sea turtle supporters from all over Florida came together for the 18th Annual Florida Marine Turtle Permit Holder Meeting last weekend, March 6-8. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) hosted the annual meeting that brought together approximately 350 sea turtle experts, Florida’s Marine Turtle Permit Holders and dedicated volunteers.

nesting tape FWCThe meeting, which took place at the Crown Plaza Melbourne, made for a weekend of sea turtle education and discussions about current research, trends and emerging issues in sea turtle conservation throughout the state. A sea turtle social on the evening of March 6 started the gathering with food, fun and familiar faces.

Saturday began with a full day of presentations by FWC, STC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and more. The presentation topics included updates on the 2014 nesting season, stranding trends, updates on sea turtle lighting issues and the latest conservation and ambassador education efforts. During presentation breaks attendees had the opportunity to participate in the silent auction and bid on beautiful sea turtle items such as apparel, artwork, jewelry, toys and trinkets. The silent auction raised almost $3,000 for sea turtle conservation.

A breakfast roundtable discussion concluded the annual meeting for Florida’s sea turtle community on Sunday morning. Participants enjoyed breakfast and table discussions on topics including Sea Turtle-Friendly Lighting, Predation Impacts and Strategies, Sea Turtle Grants Program, Nourishment Monitoring and Education. The annual meeting has become an essential part of the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Program and continued to highlight the importance of education efforts in sea turtle conservation.

Breakfast Roundtable discussion on the Sea Turtle Grant Program led by Dan Evans of STC

Breakfast Roundtable discussion on the Sea Turtle Grant Program led by Dan Evans of STC

The meeting returned to Melbourne Beach in Brevard County for the first time since 2011. This area is important to sea turtles and the dedicated people who work around-the-clock to conserve them. Brevard County beaches are nesting grounds for three different species of marine turtles including the threatened loggerhead, the endangered green turtle and one of the rarest sea turtle species, the leatherback.

Also located in this area is the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, named after the late Dr. Archie Carr, Jr., who was the founding scientific director of STC and made extraordinary contributions to sea turtle conservation during his lifetime. The refuge is home to the Barrier Island Center, an educational center used by STC to manage and conduct educational programs through a partnership with the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EELS).

“Sea turtles are a popular and iconic part of Florida’s beaches and coastal waters,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of STC. “They are indicators of how well we are protecting these resources. The dedicated community of biologists, agency staff and volunteers who make up the Florida Sea Turtle Permit Holders are working together to ensure a bright future both for sea turtles and the habitats they depend upon.”

Nesting Loggerhead (Photo cred: Lazaro Ruda)

Nesting Loggerhead (Photo credit: Lazaro Ruda)

Here are some ways you can help protect sea turtles:

  • Turning off lights or using sea turtle friendly lighting along the coast during the April-October nesting season
  • Not disturbing nesting turtles and their eggs
  • Properly disposing of fishing line
  • Making sure the beaches are clear at night by storing chairs, boats and other potential obstacles for nesting turtles
  • Florida Residents can also help by purchasing the Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate at their local tax collector’s office. Proceeds from the sea turtle tag support the FWC’s Marine Turtle Protection Program, as well as the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which awards funding to local groups, universities and counties throughout Florida to support sea turtle research, education and conservation.


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) would like to thank all those who attended and helped make the 18th Annual Florida Marine Turtle Permit Holder Meeting a success. We hope you all enjoyed the meeting, and we can’t wait to see you all next year!

More information on sea turtles and how to help them, visit or

The Sea Turtle License Plate: Creating a Better Future for Florida’s Sea Turtles for Twenty Years

It’s been 20 years since Sea Turtle Conservancy led the successful campaign to create a sea turtle license plate in Florida. After meeting the requirements to create a new specialty tag and crafting legislation delineating how funds would be used, STC worked with the Florida Legislature to gain near-unanimous approval for the turtle tag during the 1997 Legislative Session.

SeaTurtleLicensePlate - CopyNow, two decades later, the Helping Sea Turtles Survive license plate is the second highest selling specialty plate in the state (behind just the University of Florida tag) and the top selling environmental plate. It’s almost impossible to drive on Florida’s roads without catching a glimpse of the now iconic ocean blue and sand-colored plate featuring a loggerhead hatchling crawling toward the surf. But the sea turtle tag has done more than just turn a few heads.

In the mid-90s, Florida’s fledgling Marine Turtle Protection Program was fighting for survival. The state program had no dedicated funding source and was scraping by on bare-minimum annual appropriations and small grants from another wildlife agency. As a result, sea turtle research, recovery and regulatory efforts in Florida were at risk.

When STC executive director David Godfrey first started with the organization in 1993, at that time running STC’s Florida programs, his first major initiative was to launch the campaign to establish the turtle tag.

STC director David Godfrey talks to media at the Florida Capitol in 1997 to announce a billboard campaign that will introduce the sea turtle tag to Floridians.

“The first thing I did after starting with STC was to travel around Florida meeting with people involved in sea turtle protection to learn about the greatest threats facing these species in the state,” Godfrey said. “I found one of the biggest challenges at the time was a lack of reliable funding for the State’s marine turtle regulatory program. I looked around and saw how successful the manatee tag was and thought to myself there’s no reason we can’t have a sea turtle tag too.”

In 1994, STC partnered with sea turtle groups and advocates across Florida to launch a statewide campaign to create the sea turtle specialty license plate, which would establish a much-needed permanent source of funding for sea turtle regulatory programs. STC spent two years carrying out a petition drive to collect the required 10,000 signatures from Florida vehicle owners who pledged to purchase the new tag once it became available. Godfrey worked with an artist from New York, Elane Eckert, to come up with a catchy design for the tag, and STC developed a long-term marketing plan to build broad support for the tag. The final requirement for establishing a new specialty tag was a $30,000 application fee that had to be paid to the Department of Motor Vehicles to cover the initial costs of printing the tag. The full amount of the fee was loaned to STC, interest free, by an anonymous member of Florida’s volunteer sea turtle community (the loan has since been paid back in full through donations from turtle groups and volunteers all over Florida).

Governor Lawton Chiles signs the bill establishing the Sea Turtle License Plate at a signing ceremony in 1997. STC executive director David Godfrey stands just behind the governor with members of the legislature who sponsored the bill.

The Helping Sea Turtles Survive specialty license plate became official in 1997, when it was passed with overwhelming support of the Florida Legislature. The tag was approved by a 35-0 vote in the Senate and a 116-3 vote in the House of Representatives. The final bill was signed by Governor Lawton Chiles at a ceremony held next to the sea turtle tanks at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

“One of the most unique aspects of Florida’s turtle tag,” said Godfrey, “is that it was established by STC with the support of other citizen groups in order to create a permanent funding source for a government program.”

Today, revenue generated by the sea turtle tag stretches a long way. Seventy percent of the plate’s proceeds serve as the primary source of funding for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program (MTPP). The remaining funds are routed through STC, which distributes funding annually through the Sea Turtle Grants Program (STGP). The program disperses about $300,000 in grants every year to coastal county governments, educational institutions and nonprofit groups through a competitive grants program. Since its establishment, the STGP has been able to award more than $4 million in grants to more than 230 sea turtle research, conservation and education projects.

The STGP Committee meets to discuss which projects will receive funding.

Support for the turtle tag has strengthened over the years. While sales of most specialty plates decreased during the recent economic downturn, the sea turtle plate consistently remained on the list of top sellers. A small portion of revenue from the tag is used by STC to conduct marketing activities on behalf of the sea turtle plate; however, Godfrey credits the long-term success of the plate to the popularity of sea turtles and the passionate support of sea turtle organizations and volunteers around Florida. By purchasing the plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save endangered sea turtles and their habitats.

Aside from funding the state’s regulatory program, funds awarded through the Sea Turtle Grants Program have supported important advances in sea turtle research, public education and rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles.

Grants from the STGP, funded by the sea turtle specialty license plate, are helping facilities such as The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida to improve rehabilitation efforts for sea turtles. Photo courtesy of The Turtle Hospital.

For example, The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, and other organizations working to rehabilitate sick and injured turtles have received numerous grants for equipment and supplies to help them save sea turtles.

“The Sea Turtle Grants Program has helped The Turtle Hospital to grow into a state of the art medical and educational facility,” said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of The Turtle Hospital.

Perhaps most critical was the emergency grant the hospital received in 2005 after a tidal surge from Hurricane Wilma destroyed part of the facility. “We were devastated by Hurricane Wilma,” said Zirkelbach “The emergency grant from the license plate helped us quickly repair the facility and ensure that no turtles were harmed.”

Since 2013, the Brevard Zoo has received more than $50,000 in grants from the STGP to help build, equip and maintain a fully functional sea turtle treatment and healing center. Before construction of the center, injured sea turtles in the area had to be transported several hours away for treatment to Orlando, Boca Raton or even the Florida Keys. More loggerhead and green sea turtles nest in Brevard County, where the Brevard Zoo is located, than anywhere else in the United States. A new treatment center on the East Coast of Florida can mean the difference between life and death.

New educational displays and activities in the BIC, which were made possible by a grant from the STGP.

New educational displays and activities in the BIC, which were made possible by a grant from the STGP.

Jon Brangan, deputy director of the Brevard Zoo, said that building the healing center put a shorter distance between the shoreline and a turtle rehab facility. “We can see and triage turtles in half the time that it took in the past,” he said.

Proceeds from the license plate also help institutions improve their educational exhibits. The Barrier Island Center (BIC) located in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is an education center jointly operated by STC and Brevard County. The BIC received a grant in 2014 to expand and update its facilities, making sea turtle education an interactive experience for the nearly 30,000 visitors the center receives annually.

Larry Wood, a biologist with the Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches, received several grants from the STGP to launch a unique in-water study of hawksbill turtles in Florida. Of the five species of marine turtles that visit Florida waters, hawksbills remain the most mysterious to scientists. Because they don’t utilize Florida beaches for nesting hawksbills generally have been considered rare in state waters, despite being reported often by SCUBA divers along Florida’s southeast coast.

As a highly endangered species and an important member of the coral reef community, understanding and conserving hawksbill turtles in this part of their range is important to the future of both. Dr. Wood’s work to document the population of hawksbills living off of Florida’s east coast likely would not have been possible without the support of the sea turtle license plate.

The success of the Sea Turtle License Plate shows how much can be achieved when Floridians join forces to preserve what is important. Every time someone makes the switch to the sea turtle license plate, we create a better future for Florida’s sea turtles. Together, we are helping sea turtles survive every time we drive.

To learn more about the Sea Turtle License Plate and the Sea Turtle Grants Program, please visit