Category Archives: Policy

ALERT – Brevard Barrier Island Protection Bill Signed Into Law!

We are thrilled to announce that Florida House Bill 1489, a bill designating the southern area of Brevard County as an Area of Critical State Concern, was signed into law by the Governor yesterday!

Brevard County’s south beaches join only five other areas in Florida with this designation, including the Florida Keys, Key West, Big Cypress, the Green Swamp and the Apalachicola Bay area.

This new protection area contains the entirety of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a 20.5-mile section of shoreline between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso Beach – the most important sea turtle nesting beach in the United States. It also contains the Indian River Lagoon, an important estuary, recreational fishery, and developmental habitat for sea turtles.

The law requires state, regional, and local government agencies to prevent the adverse impacts of development on resources critical to sea turtle habitat. This includes prohibiting new shoreline hard armoring, reducing nutrient pollution to improve water quality, supporting nature-based solutions to restore habitat, ensuring that development is compatible with the barrier island’s natural resources, and more. Read the full language here.

After learning about efforts to increase development density on Brevard’s South Beaches earlier this year, Sea Turtle Conservancy worked with Barrier Island Protection and Preservation Association (BIPPA), 1000 Friends of Florida, and Brevard County legislators to help draft and advocate for this legislation. At every committee stop, including the full House and Senate, the bill passed unanimously. We believe this was due to the overwhelming feedback legislators received from community members and supporters about the bill.

We thank Representative Thad Altman and Senator Tom Wright for filing this legislation, as well as their staff aides who helped usher the legislation through the process. The bills had strong support from the entire Brevard County legislative delegation. We are also grateful to our conservation partners, legislators, local community members, and our dedicated supporters who helped contribute to this victory for sea turtles!

FL ACTION ALERT! Help Save Brevard’s Remaining Heritage and Specimen Trees!

**UPDATE: Unfortunately, the public lost the vote, 3-2. Thank you to everyone who sent emails, made calls and attended the meeting. 15 people spoke for the changes, and 1 developer spoke against them. If nature and conservation groups unite to make changes to the local government, we have a chance of preserving a legacy for future generations….otherwise, it will only get worse, and all the work we’ve done will be for naught. “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot” as Joni Mitchell sang in 1970.**


There is a rare opportunity to reduce the impact of a highly destructive “loophole” in Brevard’s laws governing Specimen and Heritage trees at an upcoming commission meeting.

Before It’s Too Late! Let’s Save Brevard’s Remaining HERITAGE and SPECIMEN Trees

Why would Brevard County adopt a thorough, 28-page Land Clearing and Tree Protection Policy and include a single sentence, in Section 62-4334, that EXEMPTS 299,508 properties (90%) from following the policy? The result is that a large part of our county’s tree canopy (any property less than one and one-quarter acres), including heritage and specimen trees, can be clear cut at the whim of owners. Think about that for a minute…

Towering 100-year-old Live Oaks, Pin Oaks and Scrub Oaks are being cut down every day. 50-foot tall Sea Grapes, Coconut Palms, Bottle Palms, Royal Palms, Washingtonians and any other trees can be cut down for any reason, or no reason at all, under Brevard county law … No Permits Required!

This Brevard Co. property clear cut and replaced native trees with grass and pavers, which will now funnel even small amounts of rain and flooding first to A1A, and then the Indian River Lagoon.

After extensive discussions with Brevard County Commissioners and Natural Resources staff about the best means to reduce this destruction, the Commissioners will be voting Tuesday, March 10, on a “Legislative Intent” to amend the Specimen tree ordinance. This amendment reduces the exempt properties from 1 ¼ acres to 1/4 acres and achieves the following:

  1. Reduce the number of properties where Heritage and Specimen trees can be cut.
  2. Save thousands of trees.
  3. Preserve habitat and wildlife.
  4. Reduce harmful run-off into the Indian River Lagoon.
  5. Reduce flooding from run-off
  6. Align Brevard’s Tree Clearing Policy with the President’s Trillion Tree Initiative.
  7. Preserve the beautiful views in our neighborhoods and on Highway A1A, Brevard’s only Federal Scenic roadway.

Sea Turtle Conservancy strongly supports this proposed revision to Brevard County’s tree ordinance, which would remove an exemption that allows many beachfront property owners to indiscriminately chop down large coastal scrub oaks, mature sea grape trees and other large coastal trees that play a critical role in stabilizing dune habitat and minimizing erosion following storms. The coastal vegetation to be protected by this new ordinance also helps shield important sea turtle nesting sites from artificial light coming from beachfront developments. In short, this revised ordinance will help protect some of the most important sea turtle nesting habitat in the world from the reckless removal and clear-cutting of coastal vegetation – a practice that worsens the rate of coastal erosion, especially in a time of increased storm activity and sea level rise associated with climate change, and exposes sea turtles and their hatchlings to greater levels of light pollution.

Join us at the meeting to show your support!

Meeting Date: Tuesday, March 10 @ 5pm

Location: Brevard County Gov’t Center, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Bldg C, Viera


E-mails are very important if you are unable to attend the meeting. You do NOT have to be a resident of Brevard County to speak up about this issue. Please pick any or all of the 7 items above as the basis of and e-mail to all 5 Commissioners:

I Support an Amendment to reduce to 1/4 acres, or eliminate, the exemption on the cutting of our trees in Section 62-4334 of Brevard Code.

E-Mail to: for Rita Prichett 321-607-6901 for Brian Lober 321-454-6601 for John Tobia 321-633-2075 for Curt Smith 321-633-2044 for Kristine Isnardi 321-253-6611

Together we can make this happen!

STC Releases “Ahead of the Tide,” A New Documentary About Sea Level Rise

Sea Turtle Conservancy is proud to announce the release of a new documentary about sea level rise and its implications for sea turtles and their nesting beaches in Florida. “Ahead of the Tide” (AOTT) was co-produced by STC and CAVU, a non-profit that uses flight and film to educate people about critical conservation issues. AOTT highlights the effects of sea level rise and climate change on Florida’s beaches through the stories and voices of local Floridians. The video includes interviews with scientists, coastal engineers, elected officials, coastal planners, conservation leaders, authors and activists. As part of this project STC, CAVU, and a host of conservation partners will be sponsoring a series of webinars on climate change and sea level rise in the coming months. You can learn about and sign up for these webinars at

Sea level rise will have serious and long term impacts to the state’s sea turtle nesting beaches.  Our hope is that this powerful film will help to serve as a Call to Action for all Floridians to demand that our elected leaders, government agencies and coastal communities begin planning for sea level rise in order to protect Florida’s most valuable asset — its natural sandy beaches — both for sea turtles and for people. The state’s beaches belong to all Floridians; they define our state.

Sea Turtle Conservancy believes many specific actions can be taken and policies implemented to reduce the impacts of sea level rise and climate change on sea turtle nesting beaches while also helping to protect our beaches and to ensure coastal resiliency.  Most importantly, we have to start making smarter decisions about how we manage our beaches and where we build along the coast – and where we rebuild as the seas continue to rise. Of the hundreds of pages that make up Florida’s coastal development and beach management laws there is virtually no mention of sea level rise, despite the fact that Florida’s beaches are among the most vulnerable in the nation to changes in sea level. Many of Florida’s elected leaders still deny the realities of climate change and resist any effort to plan for its impacts. We hope this video will help raise awareness and empower citizens to demand that our elected officials take action.

Sea Turtle Conservancy Presents “Ahead of the Tide”


Ahead of the Tide

Sea Turtle Conservancy is proud to announce the release of a series of short videos about sea level rise and the need to protect Florida’s beaches in an era of rising seas. The video series, Ahead of the Tide, was produced in partnership with the nonprofit organization CAVU.

Sea level rise will have serious and long term impacts to the state’s sea turtle nesting beaches.  Our hope is that this series of short, powerful films will help to serve as a Call to Action for all Floridians to demand that our elected leaders, government agencies and coastal communities begin planning for sea level rise in order to protect Florida’s most valuable asset — its natural sandy beaches — both for sea turtles and for people. Below is Chapter One – Florida’s Lifeblood.

Sea Turtle Conservancy believes many specific actions can be taken and policies implemented to reduce the impacts of sea level rise and climate change on sea turtle nesting beaches while also helping to protect our beaches and to ensure coastal resiliency.  Most importantly we have to start making the right and smart decisions now. Of the hundreds of pages that make up Florida’s coastal development and beach management laws there is no mention of sea level rise despite the fact that Florida’s beaches are ground zero for impacts. We hope these videos will help raise awareness and empower citizens to demand that our elected officials take action. The state’s beaches belong to all Floridians; they define our state.

You can sign up to be alerted when future chapters of this series are released by visiting

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

Action Alert! Help ensure the Florida legislature spends Amendment 1 money the right way

UPDATE! Join STC in Tallahassee on February 18, 2015 for a rally to show your support for Amendment 1 and what it means for protecting our treasured natural areas! Florida’s sea turtles need clean water and healthy beaches! Even if you are unable to attend the rally, you can still help by sending your comments to the senate.

Clean Water Rally Website Banner2Learn more here:  

AMENDMENT 1 – Preserves and Parks, NOT Pipes!

Thanks to the support of voters like you, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment passed on Nov. 4, 2014 by an overwhelming 75 percent majority!

Amendment 1 Support

Amendment 1 is our best opportunity to keep drinking water clean, protect our rivers, lakes, and springs, restore natural treasures like the Everglades, and protect our beaches and shores—without any increase in new taxes.  It is the largest state conservation funding measure in the history of the United States.

Photo by Alachua Conservation Trust

Photo by Alachua Conservation Trust

Amendment 1 calls for renewed state spending on water and land conservation including restoring and protecting water resources, preserving critical habitat, providing access to public lands and state parks, and keeping working lands, farms and forests as part of Florida’s rural landscapes. That means a better future for Florida, its citizens, and for Florida’s ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them such as sea turtles.

Protecting and cleaning our rivers, springs and estuaries will result in healthier marine environments for sea turtles. Protecting beaches and adding to beachfront public parks through acquisition will improve nesting habitat.

So now what?

It’s now up to you, the voters, to tell the Florida legislature to implement Amendment 1 as the people intended; for water and land conservation. By speaking directly to our elected officials, we can help ensure that these funds are put toward the protection of Florida’s natural resources.

The Florida Senate is now seeking public input on how best to allocate the money approved through Amendment 1. You can click here to submit your comments and tell your elected officials how and why these funds should be used as they were intended. You can also click here to find out who your State Representative or Senator is. Below are some talking points to assist you:


  • Voters approved Amendment 1 by an overwhelming 75%.

  • The amendment language is clear and was drawn from existing statutes governing conservation.
  • It provides a straightforward set of priorities for spending existing documentary stamp taxes on water and land conservation, by specifically invoking statutory language relating to existing conservation programs like Florida Forever, Florida Communities Trust, and Everglades Restoration.
  • Throughout all stages of the campaign to pass Amendment 1, the Sponsor Committee’s voter education and outreach emphasized the need for Amendment 1 to renew funding to these existing programs.

    vote yes 3

    Photo by Florida’s Water Land Legacy

  • Protecting conservation lands is essential to protecting our water resources. We must protect our waters at the source.
  • Development is on the rise, and Amendment 1 is intended to strike the right balance between development and conservation. We must invest in our undeveloped natural areas before they are gone and should avoid allocating Amendment 1 funds towards projects that would promote imprudent development.
  • In addition to preserving natural areas that protect our water supply, Amendment 1 is also intended to fund ecosystem restoration projects.

  • Other, existing non-Amendment 1 sources of funding (such as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund) are available and should be utilized to address the significant and costly waste water infrastructure and water supply issues facing our state.
  • While waste water and water supply infrastructure are important, there are other sources of funding that would be more appropriate to meet those needs than Amendment 1. The voters did not intend for Amendment 1 funds to be used on large waste water infrastructure projects that are the responsibility of local governments.

  • Amendment 1 does not take away from other vital programs like housing and transportation, which are also partly funded through Documentary Stamps.
  • Documentary stamp tax revenues are projected to increase, so the overall “pie” available for conservation, housing, and transportation is growing.
  • Amendment 1 allocates less than 1% of the state’s total budget to fund existing conservation programs.
Winner 1

Photo by Courtney Huisman

Amendment 1 puts a lot at stake for Florida’s land, water, natural resources and wildlife. If we could join forces with the same passion we used to pass Amendment 1, we can help provide a better, more prosperous future for all of us.

To provide comments to the state senate committee about the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, visit

To learn more about Amendment 1 and where we go from here visit The Florida Water & Land Legacy website at Florida’s Water and Land Legacy is the sponsoring committee of Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, which was approved by more than 4.2 million voters in the November 2014 election. It represents a coalition of more than 400 organizations (including the Sea turtle Conservancy) and businesses and more than 50,000 citizens from across the state.

The “Save Vanishing Species” Stamp Is Back!

Tiger Stamp

UPDATE: The Save Vanishing Species Stamp is now available for purchase online and in most US Post Offices! Click here to purchase your stamps now and support the Multinational Species Conservation Fund!


Great news! The Save Vanishing Species wildlife conservation stamp will soon be available for purchase again! In 2010, the U.S. Congress authorized a Semipostal stamp for two years to raise money for the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund and the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF) for African and Asian elephants, tigers, rhinos, and great apes. Known as the wildlife conservation stamp, it depicted the image of an Amur tiger cub.

The stamp’s ultimate goal was to generate public awareness and financial support for critically important conversation efforts on behalf of endangered species worldwide, including marine turtles.

On September 20, 2011, the stamp was officially launched for public purchase at an unveiling event held at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington DC.

Proceeds from the Save Vanishing Species stamp directly benefit the Multinational Species Fund, which has provided more than 1,800 grants for endangered species, including marine turtles, over many years.

Hawksbill Photo by Mel Moncrieff

Hawksbill Photo by Mel Moncrieff

Like the famous Breast Cancer Research Semipostal stamp, the Save Vanishing Species stamp was sold at the premium cost of 55 cents, with 9 cents from each stamp purchased supporting wildlife conservation. From September 20, 2011, to December 31, 2013, stamp sales raised $2,567,000 for the conservation of all MSCF species. Unfortunately, the wildlife stamp was not marketed particularly well and wasn’t available in many post offices.  It could be purchased online, but only one-quarter of the stock was sold. When the Stamp’s two-year authorization ended in 2013, there were still millions of unsold Save Vanishing Species stamps in stock!

Now the wildlife stamp has been given a second chance, thanks to the advocacy of Sea Turtle Conservancy and the other Multinational Species Coalition members, along with the support of Senators Rob Portman (OH) and Tom Udall (NM) and Congressman Michael Grimm (NY).  Together, we were able to prevent the planned destruction of the 74 Million unsold tiger stamps, and new legislation has breathed life into the Vanishing Species Stamp.  On September 8, a bill reauthorizing the Save Vanishing Species Stamp for another four years was passed by the House of Representatives (it had passed earlier in the Senate), which sent the measure to President Obama’s desk for certain signature.  Colin Sheldon at Wildlife Conservation Society and Will Gartshore at World Wildlife Fund deserve our gratitude for their leadership of the Multinational Species Coalition and their persistence in making the stamp a reality once again.

STC will make another announcement when the stamps are available for purchase. Once they go on sale again, please buy the wildlife conservation stamps online or at your post office and spread the word to your friends! Help us Stamp Out Extinction!

To learn more about the Save Vanishing Species stamp, visit

Urgent Call to Action! Help a Bill to Ban Plastic Bags in Florida!

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.)

turtle and plastic bags underwaterThis 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:


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:


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) 487-5005
Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, Vice Chair Palm Beach (850) 487-5025
Sen. Thad Altman Brevard,Orange,Seminole (850) 487-5016
Sen. Dwight Bullard Collier,Hendry,Miami-Dade,Monroe (850) 487-5039
Sen. Jeff Clemens Palm Beach (850) 487-5027
Sen. Andy Gardiner Brevard,Orange (850) 487-5013
Sen. Denise Grimsley Highlands,Martin,Okeechobee,Osceola,Polk,St. Lucie (850) 487-5021
Sen. Jack Latvala Pinellas (850) 487-5020
Sen. Wilton Simpson Hernando,Pasco,Sumter (850) 487-5018
Sen. Darren Soto Orange,Osceola,Polk (850) 487-5014,,,,,,,,,

Are you on Twitter? Tweet this to the Senators listed: Please support SB830 Carry Out Bags to ban plastic bags & help protect our environment #YesOn830

Twitter handles:

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, on his Facebook page or on Twitter @DwightBullard




Satellite tracking identifies risk zones for leatherback turtles

The last large populations of the leatherback turtle are at risk because their migratory routes in the Atlantic Ocean converge with the locations of industrial fisheries, a new study shows.

Photo by Tamar-Ibana

Photo by Tamar-Ibana

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is one of ten organizations that worked together to publish the study which provides insight into the complex patterns of movement by leatherback turtles in the Atlantic and their overlap and accidental capture by industrial longline fisheries for pelagic (open ocean) species such as tuna and swordfish.

Between 1995 and 2010, a total of 106 leatherback females from populations throughout the Atlantic were equipped with satellite tags and tracked over extended periods of time.  Satellite tracking data revealed that leatherbacks display complex patterns of movement in national coastal and international waters and use the waters of 46 of the 97 countries bordering the Atlantic. By overlaying the turtles’ tracks with information on fishing effort, researchers were able to identify nine areas where high risk of capture by fisheries exists, four in the North Atlantic and five in the South Atlantic. Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Technology and Research Specialist Dan Evans is a co-author on the report.

Maps of the daily locations of the turtles revealed that Atlantic leatherbacks use both deep sea international waters (more than 200 nautical miles from land) and coastal national waters, either seasonally or year-round, in a complex pattern of habitat use.

About 16,600 female leatherbacks breed in the Atlantic each year, and while some populations are doing well, accidental capture in longline and other fisheries remains an important conservation threat because fishing effort is intense. More than 4 billion hooks – equivalent to 730,000 hooks per day – were set throughout the entire Atlantic Ocean by industrial fisheries between 1995 and 2010, the study shows.


Leatherback turtle by Dan Evans, STC

Leatherback turtle by Dan Evans, STC

“Fewer than 1,000 females nest in Florida each year, but the coastal waters of the eastern United States represent one of the nine high risk areas for leatherbacks in the Atlantic during April – June and October – December,” said Marydele Donnelly, Director of International Policy for STC.  “The findings of this study have significant policy implications. Multinational collaboration will be needed to reduce leatherback capture through changes in fishing equipment, fishing methodology, and seasonal closures of some areas to fishing.”

leatherback-adopt2The study results from the collaborative efforts of 10 data providers that have tracked leatherback turtles in the Atlantic Ocean since 1995 through the Trans-Atlantic Leatherback Conservation Initiative (TALCIN).

The article, ‘Pan-Atlantic analysis of the overlap of a highly migratory species, the leatherback turtle, with pelagic longline fisheries,’ is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Other contributing authors on this report include: S. Fossette, Department of Biosciences at Swansea University; M.J. Witt, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter; A.C. Broderick, Center for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter; P. Miller, Center for Investigation and Marine Conservation, Uruguay; M.A. Nalovic, Virginia Institute of Marine Science; D. Albareda, Aquamarina, Del Besugo 1525, Pinamar, Buenos Aires 7167, Argentina, Jardín Zoológico de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Republica de la India 3000,Buenos Aires 1425, Argentina, and Regional Program for Sea Turtles Research and Conservation of Argentina; A.P. Almeida, ICMBio–Reserva Biológica de Comboios, Linhares, Brazil; D. Chacon-Chaverri, Asociación LAST, Apdo 496-1100, Tibás, Costa Rica; M. S. Coyne,, Durham, NC; A. Domingo, Dirección Nacional de Recursos Acuáticos, Constituyente 1497, Uruguay; S. Eckert, WIDECAST and Biology and Natural Resources Department, Principia College; A. Fallabrino, Karumbé – Av. Rivera 3245 (Zoo Villa Dolores), Uruguay; S. Ferraroli, Rue Victor Hugo, France; A. Formia, Wildlife Conservation Society; B. Giffoni, Fundação Pró-TAMAR, Rio Vermelho, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; G. C. Hays, Department of Biosciences at Swansea University, Center for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University; G. Hughes, 183 Amber Valley, P/Bag X30, Howick 3290, South Africa; L. Kelle, WWF, French Guiana; A. Leslie, WWF International, Switzerland; M. Lopez-Mendilaharsu, Karumbé – Av. Rivera 3245 (Zoo Villa Dolores), Uruguay and Fundação Pró-TAMAR, Rio Vermelho, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; P. Luschi, Department of Biology, University of Pisa in Italy; L. Prosdocimi, Regional Program for Sea Turtles Research and Conservation of Argentina and Laboratorio Genética de la Estructura Poblacional, Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, FCEN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina; S. Rodriguez-Heredia, Regional Program for Sea Turtles Research and Conservation in Argentina and Fundación Mundo Marino, Buenos Aires, Argentina; A. Turny, WWF French Guina; S. Verhage, WWF Gabon; B.J. Godley, Center for Ecology and Conservation University of Exeter.

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Sea Turtles from Drowning in Shrimp Fishing Nets

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDASea Turtle Conservancy (STC), Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups notified the National Marine Fisheries Service in February of their intent to sue over the agency’s failure to complete a long-overdue analysis of the impacts of shrimp trawling on threatened and endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Southeast Atlantic Ocean. Shrimp trawlers operating in the southeast United States capture and kill over 53,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles each year.

This new legal action comes just two years after the conservation groups settled another lawsuit, one that sought to address more than 3,500 sea turtles that stranded dead or injured on beaches in the same areas in 2011. The Fisheries Service linked many of those sea turtle deaths and injuries to capture in shrimp fishing nets. Conservation groups settled the litigation with the Fisheries Service, which promised to propose a new rule to help protect sea turtles. Instead of implementing the rule, the Fisheries Service withdrew it.

Since then, the agency has failed to complete a revised analysis of the impacts of shrimp trawling on sea turtles, even after acknowledging previous analyses were inadequate and did not account for poor compliance with existing regulations.

“We had high hopes that we were moving toward a solution for sea turtles, but once again the Fisheries Service has failed to actually implement the protective measures,” said Jaclyn Lopez, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency has gotten into a disturbing habit of initiating protections and then stalling them. Every day protections are delayed is another day that these sea turtles face the very real risk of drowning in shrimp nets.”

Sea turtle escapes a fishing net through a TED (Photo by NOAA)

Sea turtle escapes a fishing net through a TED (Photo by NOAA)

“Turtle excluder devices,” known as TEDs, prevent turtles from drowning in nets, but limited use and lax enforcement have led to thousands of sea turtle deaths. Making matters worse, shallow-water shrimp vessels using skimmer trawls are permitted to simply self-enforce time limits on their tows in water instead of using TEDs. Enforcement records have shown that only 35 percent actually comply with these regulations. There is also mounting evidence from federal fishery observers suggesting that even when these restrictions are followed, skimmers drown turtles. Shrimp trawling is one of the most significant threats facing sea turtles in U.S. coastal waters.

“Shrimp trawls kill more sea turtles than all other sources of mortality in U.S. waters combined,” said Marydele Donnelly, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s director of international policy. “Nations that export shrimp to the United States are required to protect sea turtles from drowning in their nets, but the U.S. fleet cannot meet these standards right now.”

The Endangered Species Act requires the Fisheries Service to ensure that its actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of endangered species. This notice aims to ensure the agency’s compliance with this law in carrying out its mandate to protect sea turtles and seeks to establish protective measures for them.

“These fisheries should not be permitted to operate without any protective measures in place,” said Amanda Keledjian, marine scientist at Oceana.

Conservation groups filing the notice include the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Sea Turtle Conservancy and Oceana.

For More Information, contact:

Marydele Donnelly, Sea Turtle Conservancy, (410) 750-1561,

Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190,

Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590,

Amanda Keledjian, Oceana, (202) 467-1918,


STC Produces White Paper on Coastal Armoring

The construction of sea walls (also referred to as coastal armoring or shoreline hardening) in or immediately adjacent to sea turtle nesting habitat can degrade nesting habitat, deter sea turtles from nesting, and increase beach erosion. As erosion from storms, sea level rise and poorly located development continues to threaten beaches and upland structures, landowners often resort to sea walls to protect their property. Coastal Tech, under a pro bono contract with Sea Turtle Conservancy, produced a report to inform the public and provide guidance on how to best construct and locate seawalls as far landward as practicable and in accordance with state laws. The report, titled, “Guide to Siting of Seawalls” can be read on STC’s website here. Coastal Tech is a consulting firm specializing in coastal engineering and coastal zone management and can be found on the web at

Sea walls literally draw a line in the sand and prevent beaches from migrating or from recovering naturally after storm events. They lock up sand on the landward side that would normally be deposited onto an eroded beach. When they interact with waves, they deflect the wave energy back onto the beach in front of or to the sides of the wall, resulting in increased erosion and a lowering of the beach, especially immediately in front of the wall.

West of Blue Mtn beach -4-16-06

Because sea walls can have such significant harmful impacts to the beach and dune system and to sea turtle nesting habitat, they are generally discouraged and alternatives such as dune restoration and beach renourishment are preferred  to provide protection for upland structures. Of course, not building too close to the beach is the best way to avoid needing a sea wall. Too often however, we allow people to build far too seaward and on top of the most seaward dunes.

Vilano Bech 4 9-10-08

By blocking access to the upper portion of the beach, sea walls cause sea turtles that are trying to nest to turn around and head back to the surf, abandoning their nesting attempt (referred to as a false crawl). They also cause turtles to nest in less than optimum or suitable habitat. They can nest right in front of the wall where the nest and hatchings are susceptible to waves and repeat inundation from the surf. In this photo sea turtles trying to access the safe upper portion of the beach were forced to nest at the base of the sea wall. The stakes mark the turtle nests.

These stakes mark sea turtle nests near a sea wall

These stakes mark sea turtle nests near a sea wall

Click here to learn more about the threat of coastal armoring to sea turtles and watch a short animated video.

Green Sea Turtles Highlighted As Conservation Success Story by Endangered Species Coalition

Forty years ago this month, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act—our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. On December 6, the, which Sea Turtle Conservancy is a member of, marked the anniversary with a new report highlighting a few of the great wildlife conservation accomplishments since the Act’s passage in 1973. The report is entitled, Back from the Brink: Ten Success Stories Celebrating the Endangered Species Act at 40and it features the green sea turtle as one of its stories. All of the species in the report were nominated by Coalition member groups, such as STC. A panel of distinguished scientists then reviewed the nominations and decided which species to include in the report. STC Executive Director David Godfrey played a major role in the nomination and inclusion of the green turtle in the report.

Photo by Julie Suess

Photo by Julie Suess

The report highlights ten species that – thanks to the Endangered Species Act’s protections – are either steadily improving or have been recovered and removed from the list of imperiled species. Along with the green sea turtle, they include the nene goose, American peregrine falcon, El Segundo blue butterfly, Robbins’ cinquefoil, bald eagle, southern sea otter, humpback whale, American alligator, and brown pelican.

Below is some of the information about green turtles that was included in the report, written in part by Godfrey:

Back From the Brink - green turtleSafeguarded by the Endangered Species Act since 1978, green sea turtle populations along U.S. coasts are protected in the oceans by NOAA Fisheries and in their beach nesting habitats by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Many other countries have established laws to preserve these turtles, and the species is protected globally by both the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Indeed, the green sea turtle is one of the most defended species in the world.

Unintentional capture—particularly by the shrimp fishing industry—is one of the turtle’s most significant threats. Since 1992, NOAA has required all shrimp trawls in U.S. waters to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs), which greatly reduce the number of turtles ensnared in nets. The U.S. government also works with foreign governments to encourage the use of TEDs in trawl fisheries outside the U.S.

The USFWS recovery programs attempt to restore the turtle’s nesting grounds by limiting the impact of development, establishing federal refuges for turtles and reducing the impact of artificial light on nesting beaches. This last measure protects hatchlings, which can easily become disoriented by artificial lights when they emerge from their nests at night.

By listing this turtle under the Endangered Species Act, the United States took a bold stance, and the turtles are responding. In 1990, fewer than fifty green turtles were documented nesting at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s east coast. After twenty-three years of conservation efforts by STC, federal and local agencies, and other partner organizations, this 20-mile stretch of beach hosted over 13,000 green turtle nests in 2013—making this one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time.

STC has been an active supporter and advocate for the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge since the idea was first conceived over 25 years ago. The organization played a significant role in establishing the refuge in 1989, and STC was a founding member of the Archie Carr Working Group, a coalition of public and private entities set up to expand, protect, manage and promote the Refuge. STC continues to help secure funds for land acquisition and management, and directly coordinates a number of habitat improvement programs in the Carr Refuge, including dune restoration projects, beach clean ups and a program that helps beachfront residents convert their lights to the latest turtle-friendly technology. STC’s annual migration tracking studies of turtles in the refuge are yielding important information about what these turtles do when they leave the Refuge, which helps direct conservation and recovery efforts.

Green turtle hatchling by Kevin Geraghty

Green turtle hatchling by Kevin Geraghty

The kind of growth that is being seen in the Carr Refuge is also taking place in other locations where green sea turtles are actively protected, which gives us good reason to be hopeful. Through collaborative efforts of organizations and governments—both here at home and throughout the world—there is bright promise that this remarkable species may make an equally remarkable comeback.

Click here to download a PDF version of the full report. The Endangered Species Coalition also produced a slide show to accompany the report, featuring stunning photos of each of the ten species in the report. The Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually. Previous years’ reports are available here. For more information on the Endangered Species Act, click here.

STC Policy Director Receives ISTS President’s Award

Last week, Sea Turtle Conservancy staff participated in the 33rd Annual International Sea Turtle Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland. More than 1,000 experts from 60 countries gathered to discuss and share the latest news regarding sea turtle research, conservation, and policy.

Each year, the president of the symposium recognizes one individual for their outstanding contributions to sea turtles. This year, STC’s Marydele Donnelly, Director of International Policy, received the ISTS President’s Award for her 25 years of effective work in recovering the world’s sea turtle populations.

Marydele’s accomplishments are too many to list, but there are three career highlights that helped earn her the President’s Award.

–Marydele was instrumental in the establishment of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, site of the largest nesting beach in the United States.

–Marydele played a vital role in lobbying for Turtle Excluder Devices to be required on shrimp boats.

–She was also a major player in the establishment of the Marine Turtle Conservation Act by congress, which provides funding for sea turtle conservation internationally.

At the award banquet, Marydele accepted her award with some emotional comments about her life’s work and her friendships within the sea turtle community. Marydele noted that she first fell in love with sea turtles when she visited Tortuguero, Costa Rica, explaining that for this reason it is particularly rewarding for her to be with Sea Turtle Conservancy during this phase of her career.

Congratulations Marydele on behalf of Sea Turtle Conservancy. We are proud and lucky to have you on our team!

From left to right: Laura Forte (STC Board President), David Godfrey (STC Executive Director), Marydele Donnelly (Director of International Policy), Dr. Ray Carthy (ISTS President)

From left to right: Daniel Evans (STC Research and Technology Specialist), Dr. Emma Harrison (STC Scientific Director), Marydele Donnelly (Director of International Policy), David Godfrey (STC Executive Director), Merna Wimsatt (STC Membership Coordinator), Laura Forte (STC Board President), Claire Atkinson (former STC Research Coordinator)

URGENT! Your Calls are Needed to Stop a Monster Environmental Bill!

Florida sea turtle supporters:

We are passing this alert from 1000 Friends of Florida on to our friends and supporters and recommend you take action as soon as possible. As many of you know, the Florida legislature is focused on cutting the budgets of state regulatory agencies and their environmental programs, streamlining or eliminating environmental regulations, and essentially gutting the growth management laws that have been in existence for decades.

As the legislative session winds down there are many bills that will reduce or eliminate environmental protections for surface and marine waters, wetlands, coastal habitats, sea grass beds, and wildlife. The alert below addresses two of the worst bills working their way through the legislature and what you can do to reduce the potential harm to Florida’s rich environment.

Sea Turtle Conservancy has been actively involved in this legislation and working with its partners in the environmental community to make this legislation better. We have offered amendments to improve these bills in ways that would ensure protection for sea turtle nesting beaches. Unfortunately it has been a difficult uphill battle. We are now asking for your help. The issues and the bills are complicated. Please read the alert below and take action:

While the schedule has not yet been released, the Senate Budget Committee is expected to pass the growth management bill, SB 1122, on Thursday, April 28. SB 1122 will then be ready for a floor vote by the full Senate sometime next week.

Representatives of Florida’s leading planning and conservation organizations, including 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, the Everglades Foundation, Florida Wildlife Federation, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and The Nature Conservancy, have been consulting with key Senate leadership on growth management and have come to the conclusion that sweeping growth management legislation will pass this session despite strenuous objections. While it has many flaws, SB 1122 is clearly preferable to the House companion bill, HB 1729.

We are asking you to call your Senator as soon as possible to prevent damaging changes to SB 1122 when it comes up for a vote by the full Senate next week. Click here to find your Senator. Please ask your Senator to:

(1) Keep intact the existing SB 1122 language on the expedited review/alternative review process. The Senate version provides for fairer citizen challenge standards on plan amendments, and gives smaller local governments the option of keeping the current and more comprehensive plan amendment process; and

(2) Not allow “developer giveaways” on large scale projects (known as DRIs) to be amended on to SB 1122. These damaging amendments would allow a 150 percent increase in the size of projects that would be exempted from the state DRI review process, a 100 percent increase in the allowance for large scale changes to DRIs that do not require additional DRI review, and outright exemptions from the DRI process for MINING, INDUSTRIAL, and HOTEL/MOTEL projects.

Stop a Monster Environmental Bill:

HB 991 by Rep. Jimmy Patronis includes a series of special interest changes to 34 different environmental laws undermining citizen protection rights from polluters. It would limit local regulation of mining operations, allow groundwater contamination from landfills, and increase development provisions in wetlands. More information will be released at a 10:30 a.m. press conference called by The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Audubon of Florida and 1000 Friends of Florida. Conservation groups are calling on Senators to resist efforts to amend this bill’s bad provisions on to other proposed legislation.

While you are calling your Senator about halting the damaging growth management provisions outlined above, please also ask your Senator to not amend the harmful provisions from HB 991 onto other bills. Please also contact your Representative to oppose HB 991. To find your Representative, please click here and then click on the “Find Your Representative” icon.

Veto Override May Spell Trouble for Turtles

To many in Florida’s environmental community, the hastily called legislative Special Session in Tallahassee on November 16 was a warning shot across the bow. If all the rhetoric from legislators turns into action, the next few years spell trouble for Florida’s environment.

After the Nov 2. elections, the Florida legislature wasted no time in overriding the Governor’s veto of one of the worst environmental bills in years. House Bill 1565, passed last year by the legislature but vetoed by the governor, would bring state rulemaking—environmental and otherwise—to a grinding halt.

HB 1565 requires expensive economic analyses on any state agency rules, and requires any rules with more than a minimal estimated economic impact ($200,000 a year for 5 years) to return to the Legislature for ratification. Adding insult to injury, the bill was offered last year late in the legislative session with almost no public debate. In the days prior to the Special Session, conservationists, business owners and local government leaders urged legislators not to overturn Governor Crist’s veto. Those pleas were ignored.

Several legislators from both parties eloquently objected to the veto in floor debate. In the final vote a very small handful of legislators voted nay but, both houses overwhelmingly voted to override Crist’s veto, making this new law effective immediately.

In a follow up article in the Tallahassee Democrat, both sides offered comments on what this vote means. “This is literally across the board. This would change the way government operates,” said Frank Matthews, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist for the Association of Florida Community Developers.

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper stated, “From the public health and safety standpoint, this is the worst possible thing they could come up with. This may be what they want to do, just shut down government altogether.”

Crist justified his veto last year by saying this would result in a power grab by the legislature of executive authority over state agencies. Florida’s environmental agencies in responding to the bill, reported that almost all agency rules concerning environmental, growth management, water management and related issues will “trip the threshold” requiring approval from the legislature. The veto override was expected by this new legislature. Its anti-government regulation philosophy is closely aligned with the sentiments repeatedly expressed by the new Governor-elect.

I do not know how this will impact beach and turtle protection. But it could potentially impact everything from sea wall permitting to lighting ordinances. It will certainly have a chilling effect on issuing any future environmental regulations. Before DEP can issue a new regulation on anything, lets say beach raking to protect nesting, the agency would have to conduct an economic analysis. If the cost to implement the new regulation is over 200k statewide (remember this is a very large state so almost any rule could cost at least this much to implement) then the regulation would have to go to the legislature for hearings, analysis and approval. This will likely open up agency rule making to extensive special interest lobbying, delaying ratification for years.

The legislature has effectively taken executive branch authority for rule making away from the governor and state agencies and placed it in the hands of what some consider the most conservative legislature since reconstruction.

Gary Appelson
Policy Coordinator

Protecting Florida’s Beaches – A Policy Update

The recent Deepwater Horizon disaster has focused attention on the value and importance of beaches to local economies, the quality of life, and as wildlife habitat. It has also ignited a discussion on whether to permanently ban oil drilling in Florida waters. Florida statutory laws prohibit nearshore drilling (within 10 miles on the Gulf coast and within 3 miles on the Atlantic coast), but state laws can easily be changed. Indeed, the Florida legislature had been working diligently to do away with this statutory ban and only recently abandoned this effort as the Deepwater Horizon continued to gush crude. Consequently, many policy makers and Floridians have been pushing for a more permanent “constitutional ban” that could only be changed by the voters and could not be overturned by the pro-drilling Florida legislature. Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has steadfastly opposed the legislature’s efforts to allow drilling while also advocating for a more permanent constitutional ban.

In early July, Governor Charlie Crist called for a legislative special session for the purpose of placing a constitutional amendment to ban drilling onto the November ballot. In an effort to gauge public support and hopefully convince legislators to support the governor, STC and four other Florida conservation groups conducted a survey of likely Florida voters. The survey results, released on July 19, just before the Governor’s special session, found that a majority of Floridians now oppose drilling in Florida’s near shore waters and a whopping 71% of Florida voters would like the opportunity to vote on a constitutional ban. A press conference was held in Tallahassee announcing the poll’s results.

The Special Session was called to order on July 20th. It lasted just 29 minutes, with the legislature ignoring the Governor’s efforts by adjourning without any hearings or votes on placing a constitutional ban on the ballot. Several conservation groups are now initiating a statewide citizen petition drive to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot. The STC will be strongly supporting this effort.

In other beach related news, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on June 17 upholding Florida’s beach restoration program. This very complicated case was initiated in 2004 when some beachfront property owners in the Florida Panhandle sued to stop the state from rebuilding their eroded beaches. When a “critically eroded” Florida beach is rebuilt, the new sand is considered to be public property. Since this new sand is placed between the old high tide line and the water, the beach front property owner’s property no longer touches the water and the new public sand effectively moves the high tide line further seaward. In a very simplified summation: property owners sued claiming the renourishment project resulted in a taking without compensation of their “riparian” rights to have their land touch the water. The case was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2007 and eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the state’s beach nourishment program did not constitute a taking of private property without just compensation in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Had the property owners prevailed, Floridians would have had to pay first for the sand and then also for the right to place sand on a beach to protect the upland development. This could have effectively killed the state’s beach restoration program.

STC is involved in a myriad of issues addressing the long-term protection of Florida’s beaches. Beach management and protection is very complicated and attempts to balance environmental needs, public recreation, tourism, and protection of upland property. It is our mission to ensure the long term protection and health of Florida’s sea turtle nesting beaches and associated nearshore marine habitats.