STC Sea Turtle Blog

Legislative Session Brings Positive Outcomes for Sea Turtles

The 2024 Florida Legislative Session took place from January 9 to March 8. During that time, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), with critical help from our supporters, legislators, and partner environmental organizations, had the ability to defeat problematic legislation and champion policies that will protect sea turtles.



From November through March, STC conducted outreach around several bills filed during the Session that could have impacted Florida’s sea turtles and habitats. One of the most pressing was S.B. 1126/H.B. 1641 – Regulation of Auxiliary Containers, a bill that would have prevented all local governments in Florida from regulating any type of single-use container. This would have included single-use plastic, glass, polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam), and other materials. These regulations already exist in more than 20 local governments across the State and in some state parks, including Itchetucknee Springs, and directly prevent trash from polluting our waterways and harming wildlife.

The bill gained traction quickly. Once the bill was approved in its first House and Senate committee stops, STC and the environmental community rallied together to garner opposition to the bill. While we try to do this sparingly, STC sent several action alerts through social media, our website, and our e-newsletter urging our followers to contact committee members to vote “no” on the bill. On February 6, when the Senate version was scheduled to be heard in the Community Affairs Committee, STC Policy Coordinator Stacey Gallagher and Membership Coordinator Evan Cooper traveled to the Capitol in Tallahassee to speak against the bill. Representatives from the Florida Springs Council, the Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and additional north Florida springs groups also traveled to speak at the meeting. However, once we sat down in the committee meeting, the committee chair announced that the bill was “temporarily postponed” by the bill sponsor. Because the committee was not scheduled to meet again for the rest of the Session, the Senate version of the bill was effectively dead. We believe that this positive development would not have occurred without the strong level of opposition waged by our partners and supporters.


STC Development and Policy Coordinator Stacey Gallagher and Membership Coordinator Evan Cooper pose with representatives from the Surfrider Foundation, the Florida Springs Council, and North Florida springs groups at the Florida Capitol on Feb. 6.


Unfortunately, the following week on Feb. 14, the House version of the bill was scheduled to be heard in the State Affairs Committee. STC and its partners again contacted legislators to educate them about the potential harms of this bill and urged our followers to do the same through action alerts. Luckily, the same result occurred in this meeting as the Senate version – the bill was temporarily postponed by the sponsor as soon as the meeting began. With this action, S.B. 1126/H.B. 1641 – Regulation of Auxiliary Containers was defeated, and local ability to regulate single-use containers was preserved.

Another concerning bill that STC and its partners advocated against was S.B. 738/H.B. 789 – Environmental Management. If passed in its original form, the bill would have required Florida citizens or nonprofits to pay the attorney fees for the prevailing party if they challenged a State environmental decision and lost. The bill also called for the State’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and water management districts to conduct a “holistic review” of their coastal permitting processes and permit programs in order to “increase efficiency” within each program. Although “efficiency” in government permitting programs seems like it would be a good thing, used in this context, “efficiency” could have meant reducing important checks and balances in place to protect Florida’s natural resources, including our beaches and waterways. Currently, state regulations are in place that dictate the timing, location, and type of coastal construction that can be completed on Florida’s beaches to ensure that it does not harm federally-protected sea turtles and their habitat. If this bill were to have passed as written, these important barriers could have been weakened, leading to further improper development on Florida’s beaches and putting our sea turtles and largest economic driver at risk. STC is happy to share that with strong advocacy by our followers who responded to our action alerts and our partners, the harmful sections in the bill containing the fee-shifting provision and the “holistic review” of permitting processes were taken out of the bill through amendments.

Similar to the previous bill, S.B. 298/ H.B. 1079 – Local Government Coastal Protections would have taken away local governments’ ability to regulate building in coastal high hazard zones to the State. It also would have invalidated existing coastal building regulations that were already in place. Luckily, the House version of this bill did not move forward and the Senate version was amended to remove the harmful provisions regarding coastal high hazard building regulations.

Finally, STC also advocated for the passage of S.B. 602/H.B. 321 – Release of Balloons. Although many Floridians participate in balloon releases as part of a celebration or to honor a loved one, once balloons are released, they can travel thousands of miles before landing. When a balloon bursts and lands in the ocean, sea turtles and other marine wildlife often consume it because of its resemblance to jellyfish. Sea turtles are unable to regurgitate, so once the balloon enters the digestive tract, it can cause an impaction that can lead to death. As Florida Statute currently reads, residents can release up to ten balloons per day, with an exception for biodegradable balloons, which is not scientifically sound. This bill closed this unfortunate loophole and re-classified balloons as litter, which triggered a $150 fine penalty for citizens who intentionally released balloons.

Balloons are one of the most common types of litter found by marine turtle permit holders on the beach. Photo credit: DB Ecological Services, Inc.

After the bill was filed, it received near-unanimous support in all of its committees and in the full House and Senate. STC, in collaboration with our coastal and ocean partner organizations, informed various audiences about the importance of the bill’s passage and advocated for its approval. As of May 13, the bill has been approved by the Legislature and awaits Governor DeSantis’ approval. STC sent a letter to the Governor urging him to sign it into law; we are hopeful that he will sign it to protect Florida’s beaches and wildlife from harmful balloon litter.

It wasn’t all good news that came from the 2024 Session, however. On May 15, Governor DeSantis signed H.B. 1645 – Energy Resources into law. This law prevents local governments from approving the placement of natural gas facilities, removes the State’s clean energy infrastructure goals, repeals the Florida Energy and Climate Protection Act, prohibits offshore wind farms in Florida, and reduces opportunities for public participation on the siting of gas pipelines. The Governor also signed S.B. 1526: Local Regulation of Nonconforming and Unsafe Structures into law in March. This law prevents local governments from setting density limitations on redevelopment in fragile coastal areas. These laws are just two examples highlighting that our work to protect Florida’s sea turtles is not done.

Although STC and its partner organizations were largely defending against problematic policies this Session, nearly all of our priority bills received the outcome that we were aiming for. This was only possible through our close partnership with the Florida environmental community, direct communication with legislators, and our public-facing outreach. We are so grateful to our large network of dedicated sea turtle supporters who spent time learning about these issues and wrote emails, made phone calls, or shared about these bills on social media. Your advocacy and passion for Florida’s sea turtles made an enormous difference during the 2024 Legislative Session.

Florida’s sea turtles continue to face threats from climate change impacts, problematic lighting, plastic pollution, poor water quality, and more. These issues will certainly come up during the 2025 Legislative Session and we will make sure to inform you about these policies and how you can help us advocate for sea turtle protection.