Sea Turtle Conservancy celebrated its 8th annual Tour de Turtles (TdT) with a live sea turtle release on August 2nd at the Barrier Island Center, located in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne, Florida.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch STC researchers release two adult female loggerheads sea turtles, named “Myrtle” and “Dash”, into the ocean to begin their migrations. Myrtle was named by her sponsors at Ripley’s Aquariums and Dash was named by her sponsors at Shark Reed Aquarium. The event was sponsored in part by the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate.
This year 13 sea turtles, representing four different species, were swimming in the race to conduct valuable research and raise public awareness about sea turtles.
The 2015 TdT included live turtle releases in Panama, Costa Rica, Nevis and Florida. This year is the first time a nesting turtle was released from Florida’s West Coast. Loggerhead “Amie” was named by her sponsors from the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch group and released in the Gulf of Mexico in June.
Before each turtle release, STC scientists attached a satellite transmitter to its shell using– safe epoxy or fiber class resin. The transmitter allows STC and the public to track the turtles as they travel and migrate from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds.
Meet the competitors!
Calypso Blue IV, Leatherback
Sponsor: Atlantis Paradise Island
Cause: Commercial Trawl Fisheries
Sponsor: Ripley’s Aquariums
Cause: Plastic Debris
Sponsor: Disney Conservation Fund
Cause: Plastic Debris
Susie Q, Green Turtle
Sponsor: Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
Cause: Light Pollution
Sponsor: Shark Reef
Cause: Commercial Longline Fisheries
Cause: Water Quality
Sponsor: Four Seasons
Cause: Water Quality
Sponsor: Continents Insolites SAS
Cause: Invasive Species Predation
Pawikan, Green Turtle
Cause: Egg Harvest for Consumption
Sponsor: Four Seasons
Cause: Climate Change
Cause: Illegal Shell Trading
Sponsor: The Turtle Hospital
Cause: Boat Strikes
Sponsor: Anna Maria Island
Cause: Beach Erosion
Turtle fans can follow the turtle’s migration online at www.tourdeturtles.org, and cheer on their favorite competitor while learning the threats that sea turtle face. Fans can support their favorite turtle online by virtual adopting, tweeting, or making a pledge for every mile the turtle swims. The turtle who swims the farthest by October 31 will be crowned the winner of the “race”. while the turtle who raises the mist support online, will be crowned the “People’s choice winner”.
This is a guest post written by Hannah Helsabeck. Hannah is President and Co-Founder of WildMintShop.com, an online shop dedicated to helping families find toxin-free and Eco-friendly products for healthier lifestyles.
Summer vacations are a great opportunity to toss your cares away, have major fun in the sun, and create lots of memories with family and friends. If you seek beaches, campgrounds, or pretty much anywhere outside of the concrete jungle to relax, you’ll want to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind that can harm wildlife as you’re becoming one with nature.
It is estimated that more than 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean and that more than 80 percent of this plastic comes from land. When we throw away or litter plastic items, they can wash out to sea from beaches, streets, and landfills. This pollution often kills wildlife like our precious sea turtles when they ingest it or become entangled in it. That’s why it’s so important to reduce the amount of plastic garbage we produce and seek safer, eco-friendly alternatives.
It’s our responsibility to reflect about the impact we all have on the environment that we share with other animals and there are lots of easy ways to live more eco-friendly lives. So, as summer approaches, here are 5 simple ways to have a greener (and more sea turtle friendly!) summer vacation:
Water bottles. A huge offender when it comes to plastic waste is the use of disposable plastic water bottles. Staying hydrated is crucial, but there’s a better way to do it: switch to reusable water bottles. To shy away from plastic bottles and the potentially toxic chemicals used to make them, choose alternatives like glass water bottles or stainless steel instead. Simply refill with your favorite drinks and reuse for all of your adventures. By making the switch you can help protect our planet, avoid chemicals like BPA/BPS, and reduce your amount of plastic waste.
Food containers and baggies. Bringing your own food with you while traveling on vacation is a great way to stay healthy and save money, but plastic containers and bags are not so great for the environment. Plastic bags, big and small, are a huge contributor to marine pollution. Plastic does not biodegrade, meaning that the bag you use once and throw away is sticking around somewhere for a very, very long time. The best way to help reduce this plastic pollution is to completely avoid buying these products and instead opt for non-plastic, reusable sandwich bags and glass food containers (like the one shown with the kiwi turtle!) to pack foods.
Sea turtle friendly summer vacation spots. If you plan on visiting the beach or staying at a hotel on the water, you can check to see if it is sea turtle friendly, meaning that the facility supports conservation through its lighting policies and educational activities. Click here to learn which vacation spots get the STC seal of approval!
Natural sun protection. Protect your family from the chemicals found in many sunscreens on the shelf by doing a little more research and choosing natural sunscreen and insect repellent. These mineral-based sunscreens reduce your exposure to the harsh chemicals that can mimic hormones once absorbed in the body found in chemical sunscreens. These products also help to keep these toxic chemicals out of the environment so both plant and animal species can avoid exposure as well.
Straws. Nothing makes a drink feel extra special than a fun straw! Unfortunately, single use disposable straws add to the harmful effects of plastic pollution on the environment. Thankfully there are reusable straws made with stainless steel and glass that are beautiful and eco-friendly. Now you can pop a festive straw in your tropical drink and enjoy knowing that your sustainable choice makes a difference for the better.
In celebration of summer vacations and eco-friendly fun, Wild Mint Shop would like to offer a special discount to Sea Turtle Conservancy readers. Please enjoy 10% off all purchases through June 30, 2015 by using the coupon code TURTLES at checkout. You can find a variety of the reusable and non-toxic products listed in this article and more on Wild Mint Shop.com.
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is looking for talented photographers for our seventh annual Sea Turtle Calendar Contest! The sea turtle calendar reminds people throughout the year that sea turtles need our help to survive, and it includes important sea turtle dates like World Sea Turtle Day. Contributing to the calendar is a great way to help spread the word about sea turtle conservation.
We had an amazing calendar filled with beautiful images last year, and we are looking forward to the great submissions for next year’s calendar. We are only accepting photograph submissions for the 2015 calendar. Submissions should be sent to email@example.com no later than September 30, 2014 and must follow the criteria below:
• Include a brief description of the image as well as the
location and date it was taken and the photographer’s name.
• Image must be submitted by the photographer or
include written permission for submission from the photographer.
• Image must show turtles in a natural setting and follow turtle-friendly guidelines (i.e. no flash images of nesting sea turtles, no images of people handling sea turtles, etc.)
• Image must be high resolution (300 dpi or more).
To view last year’s calendar, click here.
The winners will be announced in STC’s monthly e-newsletter (Sea Turtle Talk), website and Facebook. Each winner will receive two free calendars and an STC logo t-shirt!
By submitting your image to firstname.lastname@example.org before September 30, 2014, you are granting STC rights to use your photography for the 2015 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar and other STC education initiatives. STC will not distribute your image without your written permission.
If you’re interested in submitting a photo, please include the Photography Permission Form in your submission.
For more information view our 2015 Calendar Contest flyer.
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!
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA— Sea 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.”
“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.
For More Information, contact:
Marydele Donnelly, Sea Turtle Conservancy, (410) 750-1561, email@example.com
Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190, firstname.lastname@example.org
Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590, email@example.com
Amanda Keledjian, Oceana, (202) 467-1918, firstname.lastname@example.org
On November 14, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced that Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) had been awarded a major grant to support our efforts to address impacts to wildlife from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This significant grant awards STC $1.5 million for a two-year project addressing coastal lighting problems in the Florida Panhandle. Out of the hundreds of project proposals submitted for work in the state of Florida, only six were selected for funding in this first series of grants. This award will allow STC to significantly expand our successful lighting work, which is being overseen by STC’s Lighting Specialist Karen Shudes.
Since STC began conducting lighting retrofit projects in 2010, problem lights at over 80 coastal properties throughout Florida have been retrofitted with sea turtle friendly lighting, helping to restore darkness to over 10.5 miles of prime sea turtle nesting habitat, and saving an estimated 16,000 hatchlings that otherwise would have been disoriented by lights. These results, combined with the financial benefits associated with using energy-efficient LEDs, make this project replicable in other coastal communities where poorly managed artificial lighting degrades nesting habitat.
This new project will greatly increase sea turtle hatchling survivorship on Florida Panhandle nesting beaches by correcting problematic lights on private properties with a history of sea turtle disorientations. The project will target problem lights adjacent to existing dark areas in order to improve contiguous stretches of beach rather than small pockets of habitat. Willing property owners will be identified and complete retrofits of beachfront lights that impact the nesting beach.
Florida hosts over 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the continental United States, including the largest population of loggerheads in the Western Hemisphere and regionally significant nesting populations of green turtles, leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridleys.
As coastal development continues around the state, the problem of beachfront lighting continues to hamper sea turtle recovery efforts. Each year tens of thousands of nesting females and hatchlings are negatively impacted by artificial beachfront lights, with thousands never making it to the sea to help recover these diminished populations, which were particularly impacted by the Gulf oil spill in 2010. While significant funds have been allocated to reduce light pollution on public property, comparatively little funding has been available to bring privately-owned lights into compliance. The counties of the Panhandle of Florida that are targeted in this proposal are part of the Northern Gulf Coast Recovery Unit for loggerhead turtles, which is the nesting assemblage most at risk for this population and whose beaches had the most direct impacts from the spill.
For more background information on STC’s lighting initiatives, you can read our 2011 Velador article, “Addressing Florida’s Beachfront Lighting Problem.” To learn more about STC’s successful lighting work, check out our video, “Darker Beaches, Brighter Future,” which was created to accompany our traveling lighting displays.
For every tax-deductible donation of $10 or more made in honor of a mother in the month of April, the honored mother will be entered for a chance to win a beautiful gold sea turtle charm and necklace from altruette.
With her honorary donation, your mom will receive a personalized letter, a sea turtle sticker, a membership window cling, and a one-year subscription to STC’s membership publication.
To honor your mom this Mother’s Day and enter her for a chance to win altruette’s sea turtle charm and bracelet, visit www.conserveturtles.org/honoryourmom.
All donations must be received by Tuesday, April 30 at noon to help ensure delivery by Mother’s Day.
Your donation enables us to continue our mission to to ensure the survival of sea turtles through research, education, training, advocacy and protection of their natural habitats.