Sea turtle supporters from all over Florida came together for the 18th Annual Florida Marine Turtle Permit Holder Meeting last weekend, March 6-8. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) hosted the annual meeting that brought together approximately 350 sea turtle experts, Florida’s Marine Turtle Permit Holders and dedicated volunteers.
The meeting, which took place at the Crown Plaza Melbourne, made for a weekend of sea turtle education and discussions about current research, trends and emerging issues in sea turtle conservation throughout the state. A sea turtle social on the evening of March 6 started the gathering with food, fun and familiar faces.
Saturday began with a full day of presentations by FWC, STC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and more. The presentation topics included updates on the 2014 nesting season, stranding trends, updates on sea turtle lighting issues and the latest conservation and ambassador education efforts. During presentation breaks attendees had the opportunity to participate in the silent auction and bid on beautiful sea turtle items such as apparel, artwork, jewelry, toys and trinkets. The silent auction raised almost $3,000 for sea turtle conservation.
A breakfast roundtable discussion concluded the annual meeting for Florida’s sea turtle community on Sunday morning. Participants enjoyed breakfast and table discussions on topics including Sea Turtle-Friendly Lighting, Predation Impacts and Strategies, Sea Turtle Grants Program, Nourishment Monitoring and Education. The annual meeting has become an essential part of the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Program and continued to highlight the importance of education efforts in sea turtle conservation.
The meeting returned to Melbourne Beach in Brevard County for the first time since 2011. This area is important to sea turtles and the dedicated people who work around-the-clock to conserve them. Brevard County beaches are nesting grounds for three different species of marine turtles including the threatened loggerhead, the endangered green turtle and one of the rarest sea turtle species, the leatherback.
Also located in this area is the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, named after the late Dr. Archie Carr, Jr., who was the founding scientific director of STC and made extraordinary contributions to sea turtle conservation during his lifetime. The refuge is home to the Barrier Island Center, an educational center used by STC to manage and conduct educational programs through a partnership with the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EELS).
“Sea turtles are a popular and iconic part of Florida’s beaches and coastal waters,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of STC. “They are indicators of how well we are protecting these resources. The dedicated community of biologists, agency staff and volunteers who make up the Florida Sea Turtle Permit Holders are working together to ensure a bright future both for sea turtles and the habitats they depend upon.”
Here are some ways you can help protect sea turtles:
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) would like to thank all those who attended and helped make the 18th Annual Florida Marine Turtle Permit Holder Meeting a success. We hope you all enjoyed the meeting, and we can’t wait to see you all next year!
More information on sea turtles and how to help them, visit www.conserveturtles.org or www.MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.