Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is excited to introduce one of our newest Tour de Turtles competitors, Esperanza! Esperanza is an adult green sea turtle that will be outfitted with a satellite transmitter on July 4, 2014 in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the most important nesting site of the endangered green sea turtle in the Western Hemisphere. She was named by her sponsors, Contiki Holidays and The TreadRight Foundation, via a Facebook contest. Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope.”
This is the first time Contiki and TreadRight have partnered with STC for the Tour de Turtles. This unique new partnership is multi-faceted and puts the spotlight on sea turtle conservation in popular tourism countries.
Contiki, a travel company that was started in 1962, offers travel tours in 46 countries to 18 – 35-year-olds. The TreadRight Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2008 by Contiki and other travel brands to encourage sustainable tourism among their brands and the places they visit.
Lauren McPhillips, public relations and partnership manager for Contiki, said sponsoring a turtle in Tour de Turtles was a simple decision for them because the program increases a sea turtle’s chance of long term survival and, “aids in enabling a greater understanding of these majestic sea creatures and their migration patterns.”
In 2011, Contiki began Contiki Cares, which focuses on becoming a more sustainable organization by encouraging their travelers to respect and care for the places they visit so those places can be discovered for generations to come. They also partnered with environmental activist and documentary filmmaker Celine Cousteau.
According to McPhillips, “Contiki is obsessed with all things sun, sand and surf, and have made ocean conservation the focus for partnerships.”
McPhillips said Tortuguero is a popular stop for travelers who go on Contiki’s Costa Rica trip, and that it’s evident sea turtles are essential to Tortuguero. Both Contiki and TreadRight had recognized STC’s work in preserving the places they travel to for quite some time.
They also admired that STC creates opportunities for young, aspiring researchers and conservationists, she said.
Shannon Guihan, program director for TreadRight Foundation, said it was a combination of those things that made a partnership with STC “a perfect fit.”
In honor of Earth Month this year, Contiki sent Cousteau along with 12 young storytellers to Tortuguero to explore the country’s beauty, learn about STC’s mission and tell the story of it all in their own ways. The group consisted of bloggers, writers, photographers and more who came from all over the world including countries like the Philippines, the United States and New Zealand.
During their trip, the group of storytellers regularly posted to various social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share their experience. They also put together an inspiring video documenting their weeklong visit to Costa Rica, highlighting STC’s work with sea turtles.
Contiki has pledged to sponsor an additional turtle in Tour de Turtles if the documentary video reaches 250,000 views. If you haven’t checked out the video yet, you can watch it online at http://www.contiki.com/storytellers.
Since the Storytellers trip, every Contiki Tour that goes through Tortuguero will have the opportunity to adopt a turtle through STC.
In addition to sponsoring a Tour de Turtles competitor, Contiki and TreadRight also sponsored the research of a member of STC’s Research Assistantship Program.
McPhillips and Guihan said they are looking forward to seeing how their efforts aid in the research and survival of turtles like Esperanza and can’t wait to share the results with their travelers.
STC would like to thank Contiki and TreadRight for helping our cause!
It’s that time of the year again; nesting season is officially in full swing throughout the state of Florida! About 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the United States takes place on Florida’s beaches, which means it is critical that residents and visitors alike do their part to ensure that sea turtles have a safe and successful nesting season. By reading the tips below, you can do your part to make sure they’re made part of your beach routine from the months of May through October. Don’t forget to share these tips with friends and family so everyone can work towards creating a safer environment for all sea turtles.
Watch those lights. In order to prevent nesting and hatchling turtles from wandering off track, your beachfront property should use sea turtle friendly lighting, help by closing drapes and blinds, and shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach. By following these steps, you can encourage females to nest and lead hatchlings in the right direction, the ocean! Click here to learn more about artificial lighting.
Knock down that sandcastle. Although this is every kid’s nightmare, it’s important to knock your sandcastle over and flatten out the sand at the end of the day. Additionally, filling in all holes made in the sand can avoid the entrapment of hatchlings while on their way to the water. Furthermore, remove all toys like buckets, shovels, or other beach tools. Additional information on threats from beach activity.
Avoid the attraction of unwanted pests. Raccoon, foxes, coyotes and other types of animals all have one thing in common: they love our leftovers. Raccoons destroy thousands of sea turtle eggs each year and are one of the greatest causes of sea turtle mortality on Florida’s beaches. You can help deter these animals from destroying sea turtle eggs by cleaning up food and additional trash after a day at the beach. Recycling is another way to reduce the plastic debris that kills over 100 million marine animals are killed each year. For more information on how you eliminate waste, visit TerraCycle.com or purchase one of our STC reusable bags. Additionally, our website has more information on the threats from invasive species, click here if interested.
Put FWC on speed dial. Program the phone number for your area’s wildlife stranding hotline into your phone so you’ll be prepared if you happen to encounter a dead, sick, stranded or injured sea turtle. It is also important to report any harassment of sea turtles or disturbance of nests. In Florida, you can call FWC Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922 or visit their website. For other states, you can find a list of contact info here.
Don’t interfere with the hatching process. It’s important to allow hatchlings to crawl to the water on their own. Many scientists believe the journey from nest to water allows them to imprint on their own beach. Picking up hatchlings may interfere with this process and is also illegal.
Don’t place your beach furniture too close to a marked nest. If possible, place furniture at least 5 feet away. Furniture can mislead turtles during the hatching process and also entrap them. Also make sure to put away your beach furniture at the end of the day.
Don’t use fireworks on the beach. Although this can be tempting with 4th of July right around the corner, think about how the loud noises and bright lights can disturb nesting females. Instead, many local organizations hold inland fireworks displays for your enjoyment.
If you would like to watch a nesting turtle, join an organized sea turtle walk. In Florida and other states where sea turtles nest, turtle watches are conducted by trained and permitted individuals. The goal is to educate people about sea turtles through direct contact, without disturbing the turtles. Register to join an STC Turtle Walk and learn more information about nesting season by visiting our website at /.
May 16, 2014 marks the ninth annual national Endangered Species Day. Started by Congress in 2006, Endangered Species Day is a day of awareness of the importance of endangered, threatened and at-risk species.
Endangered Species Day 2014 will continue to educate people about the importance of the species that are endangered and the things that can be done to help protect them.
Zoos, parks, gardens, wildlife refuges, museums, schools and community centers, amongst other participants in the U.S., will hold events to further promote, educate and celebrate Endangered Species Day and the reason for its creation. Those who are interested in participating in the celebration should visit endangeredspeciesday.org to find an event close to them.
The day is a great platform to highlight the success some species have achieved while recovering from being an endangered species. The green sea turtle is one of many species that are considered success stories because of its great recovery after actions were implemented to help enhance and protect the species.
All sea turtles in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act and the green sea turtle is one of the many species that benefited from the act. Enacted in 1978, the act granted green sea turtles protection by NOAA Fisheries in the ocean and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) in their beach nesting habitats along U.S. coasts.
The species was documented to have fewer than 50 turtles nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast in 1990. In 2013 there were 13,000 nests. This incredible comeback is known as one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time.
Its success can be attributed to the Endangered Species Act, STC and all other supporters who worked tirelessly to ensure that the green sea turtles made its memorable comeback.
Although a lot of species have been delisted due to their recovery, there is still a lot of work to be done to help other species eliminate the risk of endangerment.
There are many things one can do to ensure that they contribute to helping species fight endangerment and extinction. Here are ten tips from the Endangered Species Coalition 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, provides educational materials and uses the concept of sea turtle migration tracking as an online educational tool.
2. 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.
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 http://www.beyondpesticides.org.
6. Slow down when driving.
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 as a simple gift to nature and its species. Simple things like these make a difference for endangered species.
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.
9. Stand up for wildlife.
Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Harmful behavior such as disturbing and distracting sea turtles is illegal and can be reported by calling any of the numbers listed on our website.
10. Protect wildlife habitat
Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. Environmental issues such as oil and gas drilling and development result in habitat destruction. Habitats belonging to endangered species should be protected so the impact on endangered species is minimized.
Any effort to help an endangered species is appreciated, so participate and celebrate national Endangered Species Day on May 16, 2014!
Happy Earth Month! In honor of Earth Day, we’ve been sharing some awesome tips on our social media pages all month long to help sea turtles and the environment. Listed below are 30 great ways you can help the environment every day! What is your favorite way to celebrate and care for our planet?
Tip #1: Use Goodsearch as your go-to search engine! A charitable cousin of Yahoo, Goodsearch allows you to the internet while giving back to a charity of your choice! It’s the same search engine as Yahoo and contains the same information, but while you’re searching, you’re donating. Register and type in Sea Turtle Conservancy into your cause search bar and it should pop up as STC- Sea Turtle Conservancy. You raise 1 cent per search, which can really add up! Learn more at http://www.goodsearch.com/
Tip #2: 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. We love the great eco-friendly products by Wild Mint! Shop for eco-friendly essentials at www.WildMintShop.com and get 10% off all orders through 4/30 with code PLANET at check out!
Tip #3: Share and talk with others 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 http://balloonsblow.org/
If you have a couple minutes, check out this moving short animation that addresses the problem of marine litter and how it can be harmful to a variety of species.When that little girl released her balloon, she probably did not mean for a sea turtle to mistake it for a jelly fish and eat it, but far too often that is exactly what happens.
Tip #4: Adopt-A-Sea Turtle: Take a personal interest in one of our satellite-tracked turtles or a turtle tagged in Costa Rica. The donation directly supports sea turtle conservation. See the Adopt-A-Turtle page for details.
Tip #5: Start collecting items for one of STC’s TerraCycle programs! Unlike local recycling programs, TerraCycle accepts waste that is harder to categorize and items you probably didn’t realize you could recycle, such as old make-up containers, energy bar wrappers, cheese packaging, shampoo bottles, etc. The lists of things you can recycle is quite extensive and really makes a difference in the amount of “trash” you throw away each month! Even better, you can earn a donation for STC by sending in recyclables! Visit www.terracycle.com to learn more.
Tip #6: Become an Eco-volunteer! STC’s Eco-Volunteer program is a unique and educational way to take part in travel that helps conservation. With hands-on opportunities, our Eco-Volunteer programs are designed to get you up close and personal with sea turtles in Costa Rica. Read a first-hand account of the Eco-Volunteer experience on our blog and sign up today! http://stcturtle.org/volunteer-research-programs.php
Tip #7: Sign up to 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 limited edition reusable STC logo bag! Take this handy bag with you anywhere and ditch the plastic. To learn more and sign-up, visit https://adoptaseaturtle.org/Secure/donate.php
Tip #8: Instead of driving yourself, pick several days to walk, bike, skip or carpool this month (and every month!) By using less oil and gas, we can help lower the need for drilling. Oil spills from exploration for and transportation of oil and gas, as well as from urban and agricultural run-off, poses substantial risks to marine turtles and to the habitats they rely upon.
Tip #9: 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 also keeps phones out of landfills which prevent harmful toxins from potentially seeping into waterways. Simply visit Secondwave’s Website to fill out a request for an envelope and enter ‘Sea Turtle Conservancy’ into the ‘CAUSE’ section of either form you choose. Visit http://secondwaverecycling.com for more information! SecondWave donates 100% of the wholesale value of the phone to STC, and the value depends on the quality of the phone. The better the phone, the more we receive. (US only)
Tip #10: Participate in a beach clean up: Work with local groups or your school to organize a beach clean up to clear the beach of trash that could harm wildlife. Check out Mission: Clean Beaches.
Tip #11: STC recently participated in Tortuga Music Festival. The Tortuga Music Festival partnered with the Rock The Ocean Foundation and gathered many different conservation groups to inform residents of the current efforts to protect our oceans, wildlife and environment. The Rock The Ocean Foundation is dedicated to supporting scientific research and education while increasing public awareness about the issues impacting the world’s oceans. Find out more about Rock The Ocean by visiting http://rocktheocean.com/ & keep up with them on Facebook to learn about future music events and ways you can get involved!
Tip #12: A great way to show your support for sea turtles, in or outside of Florida, would be to buy a Blue marlin license plate frame. A donation of 10%, or TWO DOLLARS from each frame, are directly donated to help sea turtles. You can also buy a Replica Sea Turtle License plate from the STC Online Gift Shop if you are unable to purchase an official Florida specialty plate!
Tip #13: Avoid attracting unwanted animals (raccoon, foxes, coyotes) to the beach by cleaning up trash and food that you and others have brought to the beach. Some predation is naturally occurring, but because people feed wild animals or leave behind garbage, it encourages the presence of animals like raccoons. Raccoons destroy thousands of sea turtle eggs each year and are one of the greatest causes of sea turtle mortality on Florida’s beaches. Learn more
Tip #14: at http://search.earth911.com/?where
Tip #15: Make sure your beachfront property is equipped with sea turtle-friendly lighting or turn off your lights at night. Nesting turtles once had no trouble finding a quiet, dark beach on which to nest, but now they must compete with tourists, businesses and coastal residents for use of sandy beaches. U.S. beaches, popular with humans and turtles alike, are now lined with seaside condominiums, houses and hotels. Lights from these developments discourage females from nesting or can disorient hatchlings trying to make it to the ocean. Read more about sea turtle friendly lighting on our website.
Tip #16: Help sea turtles every time you drive… If you live in Florida you can 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 the benefit Florida’s sea turtles. To learn more about purchasing a plate, visit http://www.helpingseaturtles.org/index.php
Tip #17: Use water efficiently by taking shorter showers, fixing leaking plumbing, turning the sink off while you’re brushing your teeth, etc. Every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than ten gallons of water! Another great way to conserve water is by using rain barrels.
Tip #18: Become an STC member today!Your donation supports Sea Turtle Research and Conservation in the United States, Costa Rica, Panama, Bermuda, and the Wider Caribbean; Cutting-edge Education Programs reaching millions of people around the world; Protection of Critical Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches, such as Tortuguero, Costa Rica, and the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida; And many other programs… With your donation, you become a member of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and receive a one-year subscription to our newsletter, the Velador. Learn more at https://adoptaseaturtle.org/Secure/joinSTC.php
Tip #19: Use reusable bags when shopping: You can even purchase a great STC reusable bag here. An added perk to using these tote bags is that they won’t rip on you and can carry up to 25 pounds! Plastic bags often end up in our waterways as litter and when that happens, a sea turtle could confuse the bag for a jellyfish and try to eat it. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean and it is expected that another 60 billion pounds will be produced this year alone.
Tip #20: Sign up with Amazon Smile and donate to sea turtles while you shop! It’s the same Amazon you already know but instead of just receiving the products you buy, your money is also going towards your favorite cause, protecting sea turtles! AmazonSmile donates 0.5% of your purchase price to STC, once you register under our organization. Sign up here and visit https://smile.amazon.com/ch/59-6151069
Tip #21: Take a cue from green sea turtles and consider going vegetarian once a week with Meatless Monday, for your health and the health of the planet! Going meatless once a week can help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel! The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend. The water needs of livestock are also tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef, as opposed to only 220 gallons for soy tofu. Learn more and join the #MeatlessMonday Movement at http://www.meatlessmonday.com/
Tip #22: Throw a Sea Turtle-Themed party! Click here to download your FREE House Party Toolkit with everything you need to throw a sea turtle-themed party and raise awareness about these endangered species.
Tip #23: The City of St. Augustine, FL is celebrating Earth Day this year by hosting an environmental education festival on Saturday April 26, 2014, from 11 am to 3 pm at R.B. Hunt Elementary School, open to the public. Exhibits and demonstration topics will be related to environmental education, including waste prevention, local wildlife and marine life, gardening and water/resource conservation. Electronics recycling and document shredding will also be available at the event. Stop by and visit STC’s table at the event!
Tip #24: Try to keep lights off and let natural light in to preserve energy. Always turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Fluorescent bulbs are more affected by the number of times it is switched on and off, so turn them off when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. You’ll save energy on the bulb itself, but also on cooling costs, as lights contribute heat to a room. Also make sure to unplug all appliances when you’re not actually using them to save energy.
Tip #25: If you see turtle nests, do not disturb the nest and report others who are. If you find a dead, injured or stranded sea turtle in Florida, you can call FWC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. For more info about what to do if you encounter a sea turtle, click here.
Tip #26: Be a responsible boater by disposing of trash and fishing line properly, cleaning your boat with biodegradable products and going slow when in wildlife zones. Boat strikes are a serious threat to sea turtles.
Tip #27: Avoid walking the beach at night, especially with a flashlight or flash photography. The lights and people can scare off nesting turtles. Human use of nesting beaches can result in negative impacts to nesting turtles, incubating egg clutches and hatchlings. The most serious threat caused by increased human presence on the beach is the disturbance to nesting females. Night-time human activity can prevent sea turtles from emerging on the beach or even cause females to stop nesting and return to the ocean.
Tip #28: Start Composting: Compost is organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell. It is created by: combining organic wastes (e.g., yard trimmings, food wastes, manures) in proper ratios into piles, rows, or vessels; adding bulking agents (e.g., wood chips) as necessary to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials; and allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process. Learn More @ http://www.epa.gov/compost/basic.htm
Tip #29: Help replant gardens and beach vegetation with native species.
Tip #30: Keep loving and sharing your passion for sea turtles and make every day earth day: One of the best things you can do for sea turtles is to spread the word. 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!
Marine debris is a problem that mostly goes unseen due to ocean currents, but it’s a crisis that continues to grow globally, greatly jeopardizing the marine life ecosystem.
The issue was recently brought into the global spotlight during the search for Malaysian Airline Flight 370. As the search for the missing flight continues, scientists are realizing just how harmful marine debris is globally. What rescue teams thought was debris from the missing plane ended up being a patch of marine litter that had collected in the ocean from currents. The debris poses a major threat to marine life and the ecosystem. To learn more about the situation click here.
It is estimated that over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris. Scientists believe the largest debris collection is the North Atlantic garbage patch located in the North Atlantic Ocean, which consists of trash from Europe, Mexico, the United States and Canada.
The marine debris includes drift wood, bottles, fishing nets, plastic bags, balloons and many other types of inorganic materials. More than 80 percent of all marine debris comes from land, which causes marine life to mistake the debris for potential food.
In a study conducted in Brevard and Volusia Counties in Florida, scientists who examined the gut contents from both living and nonliving stranded loggerhead turtles in those counties found that 100 percent of the 94 turtles examined had plastics in their gut contents. Another study conducted in the Gulf Stream Sargassum examined dead post-hatchlings which were left stranded following storms in the same area, and found that almost 100 percent of all the turtles examined had suffered from plastic ingestion.
State legislatures are currently taking steps to protect the ecosystem and marine life from potential marine debris. Hawaii recently passed a law banning plastic bags at checkout counters, and is the only state that has done so. Unlike Hawaii, Florida law currently prohibits its state and local governments from enacting similar plastic bag bans, and a bill seeking to overturn this ban was introduced in the legislature this year. Although SB 830 “Carryout Bags” did not get very far in the Florida legislature this year, the voices of those who supported it were heard in Tallahassee and had an impact, as many legislators said their offices were “inundated” with calls, Tweets, and emails from supporters. Thank you to all the sea turtle lovers that reached out to Florida legislators for support of SB830, and please be sure to thank Sen. Dwight Bullard for sponsoring this bill! For more on this recent effort to change Florida’s law to allow local bans of plastic bags, check out this blog post from Surfrider Foundation Florida Chapter Network.
Another source of marine debris is helium balloons. Although mostly practiced with good intentions, balloon releases create potential harm for marine life. For some species of sea turtles, which feed on jellyfish, turtles eat the balloons mistaking the plastic for jellyfish. The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota planned to release 60,000 balloons across Minnesota and North Dakota to commemorate its 60thanniversary. However, thanks to the vocalization of many supporters, the foundation is modifying its original plans regarding the balloon release. STC would like to thank all of those who politely shared their opinions with the foundation.
Helium balloons aren’t only dangerous to wildlife, they can be hazardous to humans, too. In 1986, organizers from the United Way of Cleveland attempted to break a world record by releasing 1.5 million balloons outside simultaneously. Unfortunately, when a big storm from the Great Lakes arrived, the balloons were pushed back toward the city. This resulted in the death of two boaters who were unable to be rescued because the Coast Guard could not fly its helicopter through the mass of balloons. Many of the balloons also ended up in the water, and rescuers could not properly search for their victims as the floating balloons looked similar to heads. The event ended up costing the city millions of dollars in law suits.
Fortunately, many states have banned large balloon releases. In Florida, the law states that individuals are allowed to release a maximum of 10 balloons into the air in a 24-hour period. Those who violate the balloon ordinance could be fined a maximum of $250.
There are many other ways to commemorate a special event other than releasing balloons. This article offers friendly alternatives highlighting other options to celebrate events without the use of balloons.
So, what can YOU do to help reduce marine debris? One of the easiest ways is to make the switch from plastic bags to reusable cloth bags. STC is offering a free limited edition reusable STC logo bag for Turtle Guardians who sign up during the month of April at the $10/month.
For other ideas, check out STC’s Actions You Can Take Page:
UPDATE 4/10/14 – Thank you to all the sea turtle lovers who reached out to Florida legislators for support of SB830, “Carryout Bags,” which proposed a potential ban on many plastic bags. Many legislators said their offices were “inundated” with calls, Tweets, and emails from supporters! Unfortunately, after much debate, the bill has been temporarily postponed.
URGENT CALL TO ACTION! WE NEED YOU TO HELP FLORIDA BAN PLASTIC BAGS! Tomorrow morning, Thursday April 10, the FL Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will consider a bill that could help ban the use of many plastic bags in Florida. The bill, SB 0830 “Carryout Bags” by Sen. Dwight Bullard from South Florida will allow local governments to adopt ordinances that prohibit stores from handing out free plastic carryout bags and that require a 10 cent charge for each recyclable paper bag. Customers are free to supply their own bags.
Currently Florida law prohibits local governments from enacting bans on plastic bags. This bill would overturn the existing law and establish uniform statewide standards for cities and counties that want to implement plastic bag rules. It simply allows citizens and their local governments the authority to ban plastic bags if they so choose.
The bill provides that the bag ordinance can only apply to large stores meeting at least $2 million in gross annual sales, or that have at least 10,000 square feet of floor space. (Mom and pop stores are exempt.)
This bill will reduce litter, encourage recycling, and potentially save thousands of animals from accidentally ingesting plastic. It is estimated that more than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. More than 80% of this plastic comes from land. It washes out from our beaches and streets. It travels through storm drains into streams and rivers. It flies away from landfills into our seas. As a result, thousands of sea turtles accidentally swallow these plastics, mistaking them for food. Most of the debris is recognizable: plastic bags, balloons, bottles, degraded buoys, plastic packaging, and food wrappers. Some plastics aren’t so easy to see, so small, in fact, that it is invisible to the naked eye. If sea turtles ingest these particles, they can become sick or even starve.
Check out this moving animated video that illustrates the devastating impact that marine litter has on a variety of species: http://bcove.me/b3kgzt0m
We are asking you to please politely urge Committee members to vote ‘YES’ on the Carryout Bags bill! See below for a list of who to contact:
YES ON 830 – CARRYOUT BAGS!
Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation 2014
|Local Delegations||Capitol Phone||Email Address|
|Sen. Charles S. Dean, Chair||Baker,Citrus,Columbia,Dixie,Gilchrist,Lafayette,Levy,Marion,Suwannee,Union||(850) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, Vice Chair||Palm Beach||(850) email@example.com|
|Sen. Thad Altman||Brevard,Orange,Seminole||(850) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Sen. Dwight Bullard||Collier,Hendry,Miami-Dade,Monroe||(850) email@example.com|
|Sen. Jeff Clemens||Palm Beach||(850) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Sen. Andy Gardiner||Brevard,Orange||(850) email@example.com|
|Sen. Denise Grimsley||Highlands,Martin,Okeechobee,Osceola,Polk,St. Lucie||(850) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Sen. Jack Latvala||Pinellas||(850) email@example.com|
|Sen. Wilton Simpson||Hernando,Pasco,Sumter||(850) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Sen. Darren Soto||Orange,Osceola,Polk||(850) email@example.com|
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Are you on Twitter? Tweet this to the Senators listed: Please support SB830 Carry Out Bags to ban plastic bags & help protect our environment http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2014/0830 #YesOn830
Sen. Thad Altman – @SenatorAltman
Sen. Charles S. Dean – @CharlieDeanSD5
Sen. Jeff Clemens – @ClemensFL
Sen. Denise Grimsley – @DeniseGrimsley
Sen. Jack Latvala – @JackLatvala
Sen. Wilton Simpson – @WiltonSimpson
Sen. Darren Soto – @SenDarrenSoto
Or reach the Senators on Facebook by clicking these links: Sen. Jeff Clemens, Sen. Andy Gardiner, Sen. Denise Grimsley, Sen. Wilton Simpson
Please also join us in thanking Senator Bullard for sponsoring this important bill once again. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/bullard4florida/ or on Twitter @DwightBullard
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is proud to announce its 9th consecutive top rating from Charity Navigator, the leading evaluator of non-profit groups in the United States. STC once again received 4 out of 4 stars, indicating that our organization adheres to good governance and other practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes our mission in a fiscally responsible way.
“The Board and staff of Sea Turtle Conservancy take great pride in our consistent high ratings from Charity Navigator,” said David Godfrey, STC executive director, “and it gives our donors confidence that their contributions are being managed wisely to the maximum benefit of sea turtles.”
According to Charity Navigator, only 1% of the charities they rate have received 9 consecutive 4-star evaluations, and this indicates “that Sea Turtle Conservancy outperforms most other charities in America. This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Sea Turtle Conservancy from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”
STC spends 85 cents of every dollar donated directly on research, conservation and education programs. STC’s commitment to transparency, good governance and fiscal responsibility ensures that donations are used in an efficient manner to support conservation programs.
“STC’s coveted 4-star rating puts it in a very select group of high-performing charities,” said Ken Berger, President and CEO of Charity Navigator. “Out of the thousands of nonprofits Charity Navigator evaluates, only one out of four receives 4 stars – a rating that, now, with our new Accountability and Transparency metrics, demands even greater rigor, responsibility and commitment to openness. STC’s supporters should feel more confident that their hard-earned dollars are being used efficiently and responsibly when it acquires such a high rating.”
STC’s rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge on Charity Navigator.
One of the most commonly asked questions Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) hears is, “How can I help sea turtles?” We know our supporters come from all over the world and not everyone lives near the beach, so we’ve compiled a list of easy ways you can help sea turtles every day. The best part about this list? You can do these activities no matter where you live!
1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: 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. Try reusable water bottles and reusable grocery bags. You can even purchase a great STC reusable bag here. An added perk to using these tote bags is that they won’t rip on you and can carry up to 25 pounds! Plastic bags often end up in our waterways as litter and when that happens, a sea turtle could confuse the bag for a jellyfish and try to eat it. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean and it is expected that another 60 billion pounds will be produced this year alone. In some areas, the buildup of plastics is estimated to span 5 million square miles, which is equivalent to the area of the United States and India combined.
2. TerraCycle: Unlike local recycling programs, TerraCycle accepts waste that is harder to categorize and items you probably didn’t realize you could recycle, such as old make-up containers, cheese packaging, shampoo bottles, etc. The lists of things you can recycle is quite extensive and really makes a difference in the amount of “trash” you throw away each month. All you have to do is choose a collection “brigade”, and when you’re ready to send in your items, contact STC so we can send you our official TerraCycle shipping label. This label is specific to STC and allows us to receive the donated funds. Shipping is free but limited to the United States only.
TerraCycle either recycles or upcycles the trash into new products such as bicycle chain picture frames, circuit board coasters, Biodegradable Fiber Pots, Capri Sun backpacks, bathroom cleaners and newspaper pencils. Check out the full list! Popular brigades that STC participates in include: Tom’s of Maine products, Hummus containers, Cheese packaging, and Dairy tubs.
Contact Becca at STC to get more information or to receive a shipping label: Becca@conserveturtles.org
3. 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 also keeps phones out of landfills which prevents harmful toxins from potentially seeping into waterways. Simply visit http://secondwaverecycling.com to fill out a request for an envelope and enter ‘Sea Turtle Conservancy’ into the ‘CAUSE’ section of either form you choose. It’s free and easy for you to do and benefits STC & sea turtles by directing donations to STC and keeping the environment clean! SecondWave donates 100% of the wholesale value of the phone to STC, and the value depends on the quality of the phone. The better the phone, the more we receive. (US only)
4. Amazon Smile: Another outlet for donation is through Amazon Smile. It’s the same Amazon you already know but instead of just receiving the products you buy, your money is also going towards your favorite cause, protecting sea turtles! Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of your purchase price to STC, once you register under our organization. Just visit smile.amazon.com, sign in if you’re already an Amazon member or create an account, then type in Sea Turtle Conservancy in the causes/donation search bar. It’s super easy and you might feel better about spoiling yourself with a little online shopping if it sends some of the money back towards sweet sea turtles!
5. Goodsearch: A charitable cousin of Yahoo, Goodsearch allows you to search for information on the internet while giving back to a charity of your choice! Its the same search engine as Yahoo and contains the same information, but while you’re searching, you’re donating. Register and type in Sea Turtle Conservancy into your cause search bar and it should pop up as STC- Sea Turtle Conservancy. You raise 1 cent per search, which can really add up!
And there are even more ways to raise donations through Goodsearch! These partner sites can be found on their search engine website underneath “more ways to raise.”
The great thing is, you can explore all the different Goodsearch sites and you won’t have to re-enter any information on your donations because they transfer over to each site– less hassle and more donations!
Lastly, one of the best things you can do for sea turtles is to spread the word. 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!
For more ideas on how to support STC and sea turtles, vist STC’s Actions You Can Take page and STC’s Get Involved page. What’s YOUR favorite way to help sea turtles?
Sea Turtle Conservancy is currently accepting applications for sea turtle research assistants in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Research and monitoring of sea turtles in Tortuguero was initiated in the 1950’s by legendary sea turtle researcher Dr. Archie Carr. Dr. Carr continued his work in Tortuguero until his passing in 1987 and STC continues to conduct annual programs at the site, making it the longest ongoing sea turtle conservation and monitoring program in the world.
Between eight and sixteen Research Assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the STC Field Research Coordinator. The RAs main responsibilities include nightly tagging, track surveys, nest monitoring and excavation. RAs are responsible for tagging nesting turtles, collecting biometric data from females, recording nesting activity during track surveys, and other pertinent data collection. RA positions are voluntary and selected RAs will receive board and lodging at the STC Field Station for the duration of their time working for STC in Tortuguero.
STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for respected conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide. Or like previous RA Ralph Pace, they continue their work with STC. Ralph was an RA in 2010 and then took on the role of STC Field Research Coordinator in 2013. Ralph is also a talented photographer. Below are some exciting details and photos from his time spent in Tortuguero with STC:
“When I took the position here as the Field Research Coordinator in Tortuguero, Costa Rica I knew fully what I was getting into. Having spent three months here as a Research Assistant for half of the green turtle season in 2010, I was well aware of the wild adventure and surprise that Tortuguero would provide. When most people hear I am working on a Caribbean beach in Costa Rica they envision a white sand beach where luxurious tiki style huts hang over crystal clear water. But, here it is far more rustic and wild. Imagine Jungle Book meets Indiana Jones. In reality, Tortuguero is a highly dynamic beach who’s landscape changes as fast as the tide. The beach is backed by a lush, dense jungle that is supported by the migration of sea turtles.
Under the clearest of Milky Way skies, we set out to patrol the beach nightly in search of three to four hundred pound nesting female turtles. We do so to collect data and monitor their epic population rebound of 500% here in Tortuguero. Then as quickly as the turtles appear they vanish on their return to far off feeding ground around the Caribbean.
The beach becomes an expressway for millions of babies who are only just beginning their majestic journey. Just this morning during a track survey, I stood in shock as six hundred hatchlings emerged under the hardest of rains. As the baby hatchlings entered the water I couldn’t help but wonder where the offshore currents will take them. Will they go to Bermuda, Brazil or Cuba as many of our turtles do? Or, will they settle closer to home in Nicaragua? (Click here to watch an amazing video Ralph shot of green sea turtles hatching!)
As with all the other mysteries, I wonder, where have six months gone? Then I remember the thousands of turtles I have seen, hundreds of hours on the beach, the dozen meteor showers, the manatee I took DNA samples of, the jaguar I stood face to face with, the daily howler monkey alarm clocks at 5 am, the hundreds of kids served in the local schools and the countless friends I’ve met from around the world that have made it all so epic. So what makes this place so special? Of the five continents I have explored, the mystique and adventure of Tortuguero is like no other place I have ever seen or imagined.”
To view more spectacular sea turtle photos by Ralph, check out his Facebook page RALFotos.
For more information about STC’s Research Assistant positions including a project summary and work description, click here. The deadline to apply for the Leatherback Research Program is January 7, 2014 and the Green Turtle Program deadline is March 10, 2014. For questions pertaining to STC’s Research Assistant Program, please contact STC Scientific Director Emma Harrison at email@example.com.
Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been discarded, abandoned or lost in the ocean, and are a major threat to sea creatures. Sometimes these nets will wash ashore but other times they are carried on ocean currents far from their place of origin, trapping and entangling anything in their path, including sea turtles. This is where the Olive Ridley Project (ORP) steps in.
Created in July 2013 by marine biologists Martin Stelfox and David Balson, the Olive Ridley Project started as an initiative to target ghost nets in the Indian Ocean. The project consists of four elements to tackle ghost nets: research, awareness, removal and recycling. Stelfox and Balson both work in the Maldives and were encountering a large number of olive ridley sea turtles entangled in ghost nets. Olive ridleys get their name from the coloring of their heart-shaped shell, which starts out gray but becomes olive green once the turtles are adults.
This species is particularly rare in the Maldives. High nesting populations are found close by in Orissa, India, and statistics suggest that 80% of the world’s nesting takes place here. The Maldives, however, are a critical resting point for many migratory species like sea turtles. Unfortunately, most encounters with this vulnerable sea turtle are under stressful conditions and a large portion are found entangled in discarded fishing nets. Entanglement often leads to severe injuries and flipper amputations are common. In addition, stress experienced by turtles during this ordeal leads to buoyancy problems, which means they cannot dive.
Since 2011, 65 olive ridleys have been found trapped in fishing nets. Many suffer severe injuries such as amputations and deep lacerations. Often rehabilitation back into the wild is extremely difficult and many do not survive. In the short time the Olive Ridley Project has been running, 21 olive ridley turtles have been found injured by ghost nets. It is difficult to say for certain where these nets originate and changes in current direction during monsoons add to the complexity in determining where drifting nets come from.
In order to combat this problem, the ORP is aiming to actively target the origin of ghost nets using information gathered from the community. In order for this project to be successful, they need information from everyone who finds nets while conducting research or diving in the Indian Ocean or a net that has washed ashore on a beach near the Indian Ocean. A simple picture with exact location found would be enough data for them to use, but if measurements can be taken that would be even better.
What exactly is a Fundana? Lisa Jo Randgaard, a longtime Sea Turtle Conservancy member, passed away unexpectedly in May 2012, at age 43, due to complications from a serious congenital heart condition. To honor Lisa’s passion for wildlife and its protection, especially her love of sea turtles, the Randgaard family established The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund, making it STC’s first member-initiated endowment fund.
In March 2013, Lisa’s family launched Lisa’s Fundanas Project. Her mother and two sisters are hand-sewing special, limited edition bandanas using batik cotton fabric featuring a beautiful sea turtle print. Each bandana is approximately 21”x 21” and comes with a special label reading “Handmade for a Sea Turtle Hero” and a turquoise sea turtle bead. Custom, pet-sized Fundanas without beads are also available, and can be embroidered with your pet’s name.
We did a special Q&A with Lisa’s sister, Linda, about Lisa’s Fundanas Project:
How did the idea for Lisa’s Fundanas Project come about?
My Mom, sister and I – “The Sew Turtles” – wanted the chance to direct our grief and do good in the world since helping those most vulnerable, especially animals, was a central theme in Lisa’s life. Lisa saw bandanas as a wardrobe staple, she loved adventures of all shapes and sizes, and she had a particular passion for endangered sea turtles, strengthened through her involvement with STC. Lisa’s Fundanas Project was a fun-loving way to combine these aspects of Lisa’s life and raise funds for The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund. We are very proud that it is STC’s first member-initiated endowment fund. A sales goal of 50 Fundanas was set in order to raise $1,000 for Lisa’s Fund, and things have gone further than we ever imagined possible. To our great delight, we have sold 243 and raised $6,810 since last February.
What is your favorite way to wear your Fundana?
I like to wear mine on my head or around my neck while I hike for sun protection, but don’t underestimate a Fundana’s value at darkening a room or tent when used to cover your eyes. Ironically, while I don’t travel much, I’ve become more adventure-minded since we launched this effort because I want to share in the fun. My husband and I just posted our picture from the oldest living forest on earth, with ancient trees dating 3,000 to 5,000 years old. Last spring, I went for my first hot air balloon ride. I don’t think these trips would have happened if not for the spirit of the Project, and I know Lisa would be thrilled at what is being done in her name.
What kind of pictures do you receive of people wearing/traveling with their Fundanas?
Our “Say Cheese” section on the LoveIntoSustainedAction.com website and the Love Into Sustained Action Facebook page have grown into something quite wonderful. Fundana pictures have come in from “Coast-to-Coast and the Middle”; they’ve also come from as far away as Italy, Iceland, and Afghanistan. We even had a photo taken at the equator in Kenya, Africa. We set a goal of 17 U.S. states and 17 foreign countries represented in our website’s photo album since that is Lisa’s birthdate. We’re well on our way to meeting and, hopefully, surpassing these goals with 11 states and 13 countries currently represented. Some people snap shots at home or on local adventures, while others are hitting the road and taking their Fundanas with them. We love every single one, and each submission is entered automatically into our photo contest that runs through March 2014.
What is the process of making a Fundana like?
It’s emotional, but gratifying, because we’ve seen the Project go so much further than we ever expected. I, personally, stand at my kitchen island and stitch because otherwise my cats and dogs want to help. Sewing each one reminds us that there are many big-hearted, generous people in the world who share of our love of sea turtles and their ongoing protection. Equally important to us, so many Fundana Fans have shared pictures and infused that sense of playfulness into our work, which has been heartwarming.
Why do Fundanas make a great holiday gift?
People have responded warmly and generously to the fact that this Project is so personal in nature and that 100% of each donation is directed to sea turtle conservation, honoring our beloved daughter and sister. Every Fundana is one-of-a-kind and hand-sewn by Mom in Minnesota, Diane in Oregon, or me in California. The batiked 100% cotton sea turtle fabric, special label and sea turtle bead seem to be a big hit with folks. We just mailed our single largest order of 25, now on their way to the Cayman Islands. It really is a gift that keeps on giving because endowment funding underpins sea turtle conservation in perpetuity.
What are you future goals for Fundana sales / Lisa’s Fund?
The Project runs through March 2014, and we hope to see sales continue until we pack up our sewing needles. In addition to Lisa’s Fundanas, we’ve made a couple “Fancy Fundanas” for the holidays with unique beading that are available to view and order online for $40-$50 donations. As for our next project? Stay tuned.
Who would you love to see rock a Fundana?
The minimum donation for each Limited Edition Lisa’s Fundana is $20 (also $20 for a pet Fundana) and 100% of all money raised is donated to STC for The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund. To celebrate Lisa’s love of travel, the family is asking all Fundanas fans to share pictures of themselves and pets wearing their Fundanas on both local and global adventures. Pictures can be added to the growing album at LoveIntoSustainedAction.com and Love Into Sustained Action on Facebook.
Click here to purchase a Fundana!
Many of us are familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but what about #GivingTuesday? And what’s with that hashtag symbol? #GivingTuesday is a campaign to create an international day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations. Taking place on December 3, 2013 –the Tuesday after Thanksgiving– #GivingTuesday aims to harness the power of social media to create an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are synonymous with holiday shopping.
So far, over 4,500 non-profit organizations have signed up to be official #GivingTuesday partners and Sea Turtle Conservancy is excited to announce that we too will be participating in this exciting movement! #GivingTuesday is a time for the world to come together and show how powerful humanity can be when we unite to give on one day. Click here to view STC’s official #GivingTuesday info page.
So how can you participate? You don’t have to be a world leader or billionaire to make a difference. There are many different ways to take part in the #GivingTuesday movement while supporting STC! We created a “Giving Tuesday Pledge Certificate” that you can print out and fill in your own pledge. You can pledge a donation, conservation action, or an activity to educate yourself or others about sea turtles. The possibilities are endless! After you fill out your pledge certificate, send us a picture to show us what you’re pledging. We’ll be sharing photos in the weeks leading up to and throughout the day on #GivingTuesday on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Need an idea of what to pledge? Click here to watch a video of what some of our supporters are pledging! Here are some other examples:
– Make a donation to Sea Turtle Conservancy
– Start recycling at home/work/school
– Participate in a beach/park/neighborhood trash clean-up
– Adopt a sea turtle from Sea Turtle Conservancy
– Take reusable bags to the store
– Read a book about sea turtles
– Spread the word about STC on Facebook or Twitter
Don’t feel limited to the pledges above. Create your own and tell us how you are going to give back this year!
Along with STC’s #GivingTuesday Pledge, we’re also encouraging our supporters to make their voices heard on social media by using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #unselfie.
Not into social media? Not to worry! In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, if we can raise $10,000 by December 31st, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Board of Directors has offered to match this with a generous donation of $10,000!! That doubles your donation! Donations can be made on STC’s website or mailed in from December 3rd – 31st.
So save the date and join the movement to celebrate giving with STC! “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
My name is Courtney Kramer. I have been the Education Intern at Sea Turtle Conservancy for a little over a year now. I’m in my freshman year at the University of Florida, majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. As STC’s Education Intern, I manage the AdvoKids program, which is a program dedicated to get youth involved in sea turtle and ocean conservation.
I’m always interested in learning about new ways to get young people excited about conservation and the environment, which is why I was thrilled when I got the chance to attend an environmental conference called Power Shift in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania several weeks ago.
Power Shift brought together a group of passionate, active youth in an effort to support the environment. The thought of a conference typically produces images of stuffy wealthy men in a suit and tie. This particular “conference,” however, was more than its connotation: it was a gathering, a union. It was inspiration, networking, passion and enthusiasm all for the environment.
I left October 17th, a Thursday evening on a bus with 47 other college students from the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University and University of North Florida. You can imagine a bus full of young hippies can make for a pretty interesting ride. After 17 hours of guitar songs, 2 cranky bus drivers, beautiful scenery, pita bread and a quick stop at IHOP, we finally arrived Friday afternoon in a city with 7,000 congregated new people, mostly youth, from across the nation.
We started the event with a number of speakers from all over the world, both young and old. Some were leaders of well-recognized organizations while others had been directly impacted when their hometown was devastated by environmental catastrophes such as mountain top removal. One particular speaker was a 12-year-old girl indigenous to the Sliammon First Nation. She explained that many of the customs her family were once able to practice, she now cannot practice anymore because of environmental destruction. Her presence alone was full of passion, professionalism and sincerity, and captivated the audience.
The next day was a career fair composed of a number of organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Greenpeace, as well as smaller organizations and clubs such as IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions). I was able to network with a number of people who played a large role within organizations, such as the President of the EPA.
On Monday, over a thousand people from Power Shift walked the streets holding signs to protest fracking and raise awareness about the importance of clean energy development and a “just economy.” Fracking occurs when fossil fuels are extracted out of mountains and natural gas is released. When this happens, the surrounding areas become contaminated; this includes the local people’s drinking water. Many people passing by on the street would come up to me and ask what was going on. It was amazing to see just how much curiosity and awareness this event created.
Throughout my trip, I met so many new and interesting people. Some of them I hope to make life-long friends. I am grateful to have met so many determined, amazing young people who are driven with the same passion as I.
It is this same inspiration that Power Shift has shown me, I hope to show other young people. The planet needs to be protected. It is only with the next generation’s help that this is possible. I hope to teach our future generation the importance of protecting our planet, including its beautiful oceans. The work that STC does not only supports sea turtles, but other marine life. For example, STC supports “sea-turtle-friendly” fishing nets and practices. These nets and practices often affect other sea creatures such as dolphins, sting rays and coral. Efforts that children can participate in to protect sea turtles have many direct influences on the health of the ocean. Such efforts include hosting a clean-up, educating the public or raising money in support of sea turtle and ocean conservation organizations. In order to have a more sustainable future, we need to involve our youngest generation now! For more ideas on how to get involved, stay tuned for upcoming information about the new AdvoKids page or check out the Get Involved section on our website: /involved.php?page=actions
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is committed to protecting the natural habitats upon which sea turtles depend, while also recognizing the interconnectedness of all habitats and the role they play in our ecosystem. Many species of plants and animals make their home in the coastal and estuarine waters of Florida. Coastal economies are dependent on these natural resources, Floridians take great pride in these waters and tourists from all over the world come to visit them. But one of these bodies of water is in serious trouble.
The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) spans 150 miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast from the Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County. It is an estuary, a body of water where freshwater mixes with ocean saltwater. This waterway is one of the most biologically diverse estuarine systems in the United States, home to more than 4,300 different species of plants and animals—including 35 that are threatened or endangered.
Over the past year, a record number of dolphins, manatees and pelicans have turned up dead in this waterway. Scientists have seen large amounts of algae blooms in the waterway, some of them toxic, and there is a clear imbalance in the ecosystem. Almost 47,000 acres of vital lagoon sea grass have died from algae blooms since 2011. Biologists liken this trend to a rain forest dying. In some areas, the water has turned from clear blues and greens to a coffee-colored dark brown and people have been advised to stay out of the water. While people have this choice, the wildlife does not.
Although the exact cause of the Lagoon’s problems is unknown, there are a few possible culprits. To prevent Lake Okeechobee from overflowing or compromising the dike around the lake, water from the lake is released into a canal that drains into the IRL. Water from Lake Okeechobee carries high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus which could be causing algae blooms. Inadequate sewage treatment, street runoff and effluent from septic tanks in the area could also be affecting the water. There are approximately 237,000 septic tanks in just three of the counties that sit on the Lagoon.
So far, scientists have not identified any direct effect on sea turtles that occupy the Lagoon, but STC is closely monitoring the situation. Sea turtles of various age classes utilize the Lagoon for foraging and as a developmental habitat. Ecosystems such as the IRL are complicated and overall health is determined by many interacting variables. Educating the public and elected officials about this crisis is imperative for the recovery and long-term survival of the IRL.
Recently on National Estuaries Day, STC partnered with the Barrier Island Sanctuary Management and Education Center (BIC) in “Hands Across the Lagoon,” an event to help bring attention to the estuary’s fragile state. People in all five neighboring counties located on the Lagoon were asked to stand up for its protection and restoration. Thousands came out and held hands across bridges over the Lagoon showing their support. Click here to watch a cool video about the event! Following the event, participants were invited to the BIC for environmental education activities to learn more about our country’s most diverse estuary.
While small steps have been made toward improving the health of the Lagoon, we encourage everyone to get involved in the process. The first place to start is to know what is happening. Check out these upcoming events to learn more about the crisis:
The Brevard County Board of County Commission is holding a workshop to find solutions to the current IRL issue on Thursday, October 17th at 6:00 p.m. at the Ted Moorhead Lagoon House in Palm Bay. CLICK HERE to see the agenda and speakers for the workshop.
The Brevard Naturalist Program is holding an information session on November 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Cocoa Beach Public Library, followed by a paddling trip to the Thousand Islands. CLICK HERE for more info or register for the event HERE.
STC at the BIC is hosting a special stewardship workshop, “Recipes to Save the Indian River Lagoon” on Saturday, November 16th. The workshop includes guest expert speakers sharing what has been happening to life in the IRL and how we can help restore it, a spoil island marine debris clean up, and a shoreline restoration mangrove planting. See this flyer for more info and how to sign up!
After adopting Albina, the third graders of Lake Canyon Elementary in California were inspired to study sea turtles. In doing so, they created a “Readers Theatre” for their school, where they shared their knowledge of sea turtles and provided tips on ways to help conservation efforts. Their classroom became known as the “Sea Turtle Room.” During open house, many students not in the class brought in their parents to teach them about sea turtles. The school then put on a fundraiser called the “Color Me Run.” Classes choose a charity to run for, collected pledges and ran while getting sprayed with colored paint. The event was even covered in the local news! The third grade class raised an amazing $226 for STC. Excellent work Lake Canyon Elementary!!! Thank you for your support in helping sea turtles!
After researching the French islands, Central Middle School in Maryland discovered the eminent threats to sea turtles which nest on these islands. Their focus was to promote responsible tourism on the French islands where sea turtles were found. To raise awareness and money, the school held a turtle art competition. After only one week, they collected $1,005 to support STC! Way to go Central Middle School!!! Thank you for your support!