Join Sea Turtle Conservancy for the second annual Cuba Sea Turtle Expedition! STC is partnering with the Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program, The Ocean Foundation and Holbrook Travel to offer a Sea Turtle and Cultural Expedition to Cuba from June 25th – July 3rd, 2016.
Participants will visit Havana, the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Vinales over the course of the expedition. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ITINERARY
Participants will have the opportunity to look for turtles coming ashore on the beaches of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and observe the nesting process.
The group will return to a turtle nesting beach the following day to document any tracks from the previous night.
Hours later, participants will return to the turtle beach where they will have the opportunity to help the researchers measure the turtles and record data.
The beaches of the Guanahacabibes National Park are home to the second largest breeding population of green sea turtles in Cuba with an average of more than 300 nests per season.
2013 was a record year for the park’s beaches with nearly 900 nests recorded!
Through the efforts of University of Havana’s Center for Marine Investigations, an estimated 14,000 hatchlings were saved. You will get to participate directly in this successful Cuban conservation program, with a portion of your trip fees going directly to support this ongoing work.
Watch below to see STCs Cuba expedition from last year:
Cost includes gratuities, Miami/Tampa hotel and donations to the Cuban Society for the Protection of the Environment and Sea Turtle Conservancy.
Cost does not include international airfare estimated at $575 from Miami or Tampa (estimate includes visa fee).
The Sea Turtle Grants Program (STGP), funded by the sale of Florida’s Helping Sea Turtles Survive specialty license plate, recently awarded $311,649.72 to 24 different projects benefiting Florida sea turtles as part of the 2016-2017 grant funding cycle.
Each year, the Sea Turtle Grants Program distributes money to coastal county governments, educational and research institutions and nonprofit groups through a competitive application process. The sea turtle specialty license plate is also the primary source of funding for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program.
The following organizations received grants for their approved projects for the 2016-2017 cycle:
The sea turtle plate is the number two overall selling specialty tag in Florida, and the number one environmental specialty plate. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty license plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save endangered sea turtles and their habitats.
To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org.
**UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED LATER THIS MONTH!**
July 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Sea Turtle Weekend at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies. To celebrate, STC and the Four Seasons are welcoming turtle lovers to join the Sea Turtle Art Contest!
For a chance to win a three-night stay at the Resort, artists and conservationists are invited to submit an original artistic design depicting sea turtles through the Resort’s Facebook page.
One design will be selected based on creativity, turtle imagery and simplicity, and the winner, along with a guest, will be flown to Nevis to partake in Four Seasons Resort Nevis’ Sea Turtle Weekend, July 15-18, 2016. Along with a weekend-long, sea turtle-themed program, you also will help scientists track, catch, tag and release these majestic creatures. The winning design will also be placed on T-shirts, and all profits will go to the Sea Turtle Conservancy to continue to raise awareness for the protection and education of sea turtles.
The deadline to enter is March 31st. Entries will be judged on creativity, turtle imagery, and simplicity. For more details, and to enter, use this link: http://shout.lt/bsNMd
For questions about the contest, please email email@example.com
**UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED LATER THIS MONTH!**
Since 1959, STC has been conducting conservation programs in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Tortuguero is one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in the world. This means that vital sea turtle nesting research is conducted by our staff in Tortuguero. However, the staff housing building, the Kontiki, could no longer withstand the harsh climate.
For Giving Tuesday 2014 and World Sea Turtle Day 2015 we held a campaign to raise money to rebuild the Kontiki. Between our Members’ donations and generous contributions from Naked Turtle Rum and the Lisa Jo Randgaard family, we raised enough money to begin a rebuild of the Kontiki! The rebuilt Kontiki will be dedicated in honor of Lisa Jo Randgaard.
As you may notice in the photos, we are trying to save as much material as we can from the old house to keep this project sustainable. STC would like to give a big thank you to all our donors for helping us begin this project, we couldn’t have done it with out you! The new and improved Kontiki will keep our researchers safe while they continue vital sea turtle research. Check back and stay tuned for more updates on the progress of the Kontiki!
Learn more about the Kontiki project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM0tbA5k5a4
And follow STC Tortuguero on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SeaTurtleConservancyTortuguero/?fref=ts
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 Aheadofthetide.org.
It is with a heavy heart that STC shares the news that longtime sea turtle conservationist Larry Ogren has passed away. Larry Ogren studied biology at the University of Florida under Archie Carr in the 1950s. He was one of Archie’s first graduate research assistants and accompanied Archie on some of his earliest trips to Tortuguero. In fact, when Archie set up the sea turtle tagging program in Tortuguero, it was Larry who stayed behind, in the field, to run the program when Archie returned to Florida. This field work led to some of the earliest and most important published papers on sea turtle ecology and migrations, which Larry co-authored with Dr. Carr.
In 1956, the first year of sea turtle tagging, Dr. Carr accompanied Larry to Tortuguero, where he left him alone to carry out the work. There was no research station and nothing but an open air hut to sleep in. As Archie left Larry on the beach that year, he left him with these parting words (as told by Larry), “Now you know it’s hot as hell down here; you’ll get sand in your britches walking the beach, and you’ll get bored to death. If you do, just go into town and have a beer. Take a break, because it’s going to be a long, wet summer. See you in a few months.”
And with that encouraging send-off, Larry’s adventures in Tortuguero began. And for anyone who has ever spoken with Larry about those years, there was plenty of adventure, like the time he was flying over the Yucatan in Mexico on a Navy plane as part of Operation Green Turtle, which was an attempt coordinated by Sea Turtle Conservancy (known then as Caribbean Conservation Corporation) in partnership with the Navy to start new green turtle nesting colonies by releasing hatchlings at beaches around the Caribbean. They were flying at night in a horrible storm and quickly running out of gas. The weather was socked in and they couldn’t find the airport. The pilot thought they were going to crash until he spotted headlights on a road below, which could be either coming from or going to the airport. He made a 50-50 guess that happened to be right; they found the runway just before having to ditch the plane.
After completing numerous seasons in the field with CCC, Larry went on to a very successful career with the National Marine Fisheries Service, where he played a prominent role in stimulating global interest in sea turtle conservation. His efforts led to the funding of the first systematic study of sea turtles in the Atlantic, the results from which were presented at the Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium, which Larry organized. That symposium was the first international conference focused on sea turtles that involved elected officials and natural resource managers from around the Atlantic and Caribbean. The symposium helped stimulate turtle protection regulations in countries around the region that previously had no laws protecting sea turtles. Also through his work with Fisheries Service, Larry helped push through the first regulations requiring the use of Turtle Excluder Devices on shrimp trawls in the U.S., regulations that undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of sea turtles. Larry served for many years as a member of CCC’s Board of Directors and continued to guide the organization as a member of STC’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Like Dr. Carr before him, Larry Ogren was a lifelong champion of sea turtle conservation. A few years back, STC established an award to honor individuals, who, like Archie Carr, had dedicated a substantial part of their lives to the cause of sea turtle research and protection. Larry Ogren is one of just four people to be awarded the “Archie Carr Lifetime Achievement Award,” which he was presented in New York in 2009 as STC celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In 2013, Larry worked with writer Anne Ake to publish the book “Turning Turtles in Tortuguero: Stories from the Origins of Sea Turtle Conservation,” a wonderful and humorous look back at Larry’s experiences working with STC and Archie Carr in the earliest days of sea turtle conservation – work that helped inspire the global movement to protect sea turtles.
Larry was a trailblazer, a one-of-a-kind naturalist, conservationist and human being. He was a friend to many in the sea turtle conservation community and he will be missed dearly.
The Randgaard family has been engaged actively in fundraising at STC since 2013, when they established The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund to honor their beloved daughter and sister who passed away suddenly at age 43 in May 2012 from complications of her congenital heart condition. It is the first member-initiated endowment fund in STC’s 56-year history. Lisa’s sister, Linda, explains the family’s motivation to focus on fundraising for sea turtles with their handmade soap line, ‘Flippery When Wet.’
Q: Why did you decide to make soaps to benefit your sister’s named endowment fund?
A: Lisa was a devoted animal activist, especially when it came to endangered sea turtles, and she was a creative artist. Soaps were one of her favorite things to make for family and friends. Mom, Diane and I decided this was a fitting way to generate funds for a cause so very near and dear to Lisa’s heart. Our family covers all costs to make and ship our Flippery When Wet soaps, ensuring that 100% of all donations go to Lisa’s Fund.
Q: How did it go the first year?
A: Beyond our expectations! Over 400 soap bars have shipped since we launched the soap line last year, and we hope for another great holiday season to help us exceed $70,000 in principal gifts to Lisa’s Fund. Since it is an endowment fund, these wonderful donations will continue to support sea turtles in perpetuity.
Q: What kind of soaps do you make?
A: Lisa’s sister, Diane, is our soap maker and each small batch of soap makes 32 unique bars. The process from batching to shipping takes a total of four weeks, including curing time. She uses only pure essential oils (not artificial fragrances) along with sustainable palm oil, organic coconut oil and other nourishing skin oils. We never use animal products in any of our soaps since animal protection is our priority. With a minimum donation of $45 for 4 bars that includes shipping and handling, people can choose from Citrus, Lavender-Litsea, Lemongrass, Rosemary-Mint and our brand new Sea Clay! The soaps are very gentle on the skin and the oils create an amazing aromatherapy experience for users.
Q: How can people get your soaps?
A: Visit LoveIntoSustainedAction.com, our family’s website devoted to fundraising for Lisa’s Fund. Donors will be directed to STC’s website to make their donation to The Lisa Jo Randgaard Fund; they will then complete our online order form to select their soap bars, both quantity and scents. We have had people make gifts for up to 20 bars of our soap. The generosity from across the country has been very comforting and uplifting to our family since we chose to direct our grief into something positive. This holiday, we hope to raise $2,000 or more by January 1, 2016.
Q: Is there a deadline if people want to give your soaps as holiday gifts?
A: Soaps take two weeks to ship and we encourage people to order as soon as possible to ensure that they receive them in time for holiday giving. Shipping and handling are included in the donation levels outlined on our website. Holiday orders should be received by Friday, December 11. On behalf of my family and me, I would like to extend deep gratitude for the extraordinary support we have received from the Sea Turtle Conservancy Community. Your hearts are as big as the ocean, and we are humbled by your kindness.
The holidays are near, which means it’s time to celebrate generosity and give! On December 1, 2015 Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) will be participating for a third time in #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday provides one day to make a BIG difference!
STC needs your help on this special day to support the Barrier Island Center (BIC)! The BIC, located in Melbourne, FL in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, is an education and outreach center which provides free or low-cost programs to visitors, local schools and community members.
These programs help to educate the public about the important eco-systems of the barrier island, wetlands, and lagoon. These areas provide vital nesting and foraging habitat for sea turtles. Since the BIC opened in 2008 over 245,000 adults and children have been able to learn through hands-on activities such as Eco-Explorers summer camps, oyster mat making, sand dune planting, and much more.
Unfortunately, the BIC recently learned it would not be receiving an annual grant of $15,000 to help fund education programs and other operating costs.
Join the movement and help STC continue it’s efforts to further these educational programs.
Can we count you in for #GivingTuesday? Help us reach our $15,000 goal! Click here to participate!
Since 2000, when Sea Turtle Conservancy waged a successful campaign to block a proposal by the Cuban government to reopen international trade of sea turtle products, STC has been trying to build collaborative relationships with Cuban sea turtle researchers. For example, STC facilitated the participation of two Cuban biologists in the International Sea Turtle Symposium. We included several young Cuban biologists as turtle Research Assistants in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, where they gained valuable field experience. And in Bermuda, a biology student from Cuba was sponsored to participate in a course offered by STC and our partners that teaches in-water techniques for studying sea turtles. Despite these efforts to build relations in Cuba, STC’s ability to directly participation in turtle research or conservation in Cuba has been stymied by longstanding restrictions against American travel to the country…until now.
As widely reported in the news, President Obama recently took steps to improve diplomatic relations with Cuba. The U.S. Embassy in Havana has reopened, and the State Department announced new guidelines making it easier for American citizens to travel to Cuba by participating in authorized “People to People” programs. Immediately following this announcement, STC partnered with the Ocean Foundation and Holbrook Travel to organize a turtle research and cultural exchange expedition to Cuba that would meet the new qualifications and allow STC to explore opportunities for collaborating with sea turtle researchers in one of Cuba’s most pristine national parks. Once our trip was approved by the State Department, STC officially opened registration to members and supporters, and all 20 spaces were filled rapidly.
STC’s first expedition to Cuba took place over eight days in September. Leading the expedition were STC Executive Director David Godfrey and Scientific Director Dr. Emma Harrison. Also participating in the trip were an enthusiastic mix of STC donors, Florida turtle volunteers, scuba divers from around the US and even the UK, an architect, and even a turtle conservationist from Hawaii. During our journey through Cuba we interacted with the amazing and friendly people of Cuba; discovered a diverse and rapidly-changing culture; explored pristine natural resources; marveled at cities, cars and architecture preserved for a generation; learned about an explosion of urban-based organic farming; and, of course, observed a unique population of sea turtles nesting on Cuba’s far western shore. To say the trip was amazing is an understatement; it was unforgettable.
Cuba hosts regionally-important nesting populations of hawksbills and green turtles. In addition, many nesting beaches and marine habitats around Cuba are in near-pristine condition and are ripe for long-term sea turtle research and recovery. During the course of the expedition, STC forged a strong new relationship with Cuban biologist Dr. Julia Azanza, who leads the turtle research project at Guanahacabibes National Park. Based on our interactions with Dr. Azanza, STC hopes to achieve a new era of support for sea turtle conservation in Cuba. Plans already are in the works for a return trip in 2016, when we hope to assist in the deployment of satellite transmitters on several nesting green turtles. Anyone interested in joining the 2016 expedition should contact David Godfrey at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about reserving a spot. Like this year’s expedition, spaces will fill up quickly.
Cuba Expedition Travel Journal by Dr. Emma Harrison
STC was met at the Havana airport by a dedicated local guide and bus driver, who remained with our group throughout the 8-day expedition. Our assigned guide was the lovely and knowledgeable local guide, Susana Rodriguez, who STC hopes to book for future visits. For the first couple of nights our base was the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which overlooks the ‘Malacón’ – the iconic waterfront walkway that is a popular hangout for local residents. Our diverse program of activities commenced with a guided tour of an organic farm, where we learned about sustainable urban agricultural that is blossoming in suburbs of Havana and other cities around Cuba. Lunch on our first full day was at a family-run ‘paladar’ in Cojima and included a variety of traditional dishes, Cuban coffee, of course, and mojitos! Most businesses in Cuba are owned and operated by the government. However, over the last year restrictions have eased in the operation of private restaurants, or “paladars,” which tend to have a much higher variety and quality of food.
The main reason for STC’s trip was to visit and provide assistance to the sea turtle project run by Cuban biologist Dr. Julia Azanza, with the long-term goal of developing a partnership through which STC can support sea turtle research and recovery in Cuba. Dr. Azansa joined our group in Havana to give a thorough presentation about her work and the current status of turtle conservation in Cuba.
After our brief exploration of Havana we boarded our bus and began a rather eventful journey to Guanahacabibes National Park in the westernmost part of the island. Less than half way to our destination we unfortunately blew a tire, and had to creep slowly several miles to the Cuban equivalent of a rest area. We only had to wait an hour or so before a replacement bus picked us up and we were able to finish the remainder of our journey. Our trusty bus driver, Juan Carlos, however, had to wait another 5 hours before he was able to fix the tire and make his way to the hotel with our assigned bus.
The following morning we got our first look at the nesting beach in Guanahacabibes, which resembled a lunar landscape due to all of the deep body pits characteristic of the green turtles—the main species nesting in this part of Cuba. Dr. Azanza introduced us to the student volunteers who live in rustic conditions (in tents, with no electricity or running water!) for several weeks at a time while they conduct track surveys and night patrols to collect valuable scientific data for the p about the green turtles nesting at this site. We learned that a green turtle nest had hatched the previous night and were able to participate in a nest excavation to assess hatching success. Fortunately, the majority of hatchlings had made it safely from the nest to the ocean.
Cuba’s marine environment is very pristine, as we witnessed first-hand during snorkel trips to coral reefs that were just offshore from our hotel in Maria la Gorda. While we didn’t happen to see any turtles while in the water, we did enjoy crystal clear blue water, beautiful reefs and a fantastic diversity of fish species.
During our evenings of turtle patrolling we were fortunate enough to encounter a green turtle that came ashore to lay her eggs during the two nights we were on the beach. We also had the great fortune of observing the emergence of a nest of green turtle hatchlings! For some in our group this was the first time that they had seen either baby turtles or a nesting female, and to have that first up-close and personal experience on a remote beach in a Cuban National Park made it all the more memorable for everyone, even for those of us who have seen it innumerable times before.
Among the other highlights of our trip was a visit to a tobacco farmer in the agricultural region of Viñales—a dramatic and lush valley in Cuba’s interior that produces tobacco for some of Cuba’s most famous cigar brands. Sitting in the farmer’s kitchen and watching him expertly roll a cigar using tobacco grown in the surrounding fields was another unique experience. Most in the group could not pass up the opportunity to sample a hand-rolled Cuban cigar made directly at the source.
An unexpected change of hotel meant that we got to spend a night in Pinar del Río, on the very day when the region was celebrating its 128th anniversary! Our unplanned change in itinerary turned into an amazing opportunity to watch a street parade and meet numerous local characters who were thrilled to find a group of American’s staying in their village. In fact, it was common throughout our travels around Cuba to encounter people who were genuinely overjoyed to meet Americans. To a person, everyone we met in Cuba was incredibly friendly and helpful.
The days passed quickly and all too soon we found ourselves heading back to Havana for our last night in Cuba, but not before one last whirlwind of cultural experiences. The STC group spent half a day exploring Ernest Hemingway’s farm, Finca La Vigia, which has been miraculously preserved by the Cuban people and is still filled with Hemingway’s personal possessions, clothes, artwork, book, and even his famed boat “Pilar.” Later that night our group was taken to see the famous Opera de la Calle, a talented company of Cuban singers, dancers and musicians that treated STC to a private performance none in our group will ever forget.
Of course, no trip to Cuba would be complete without a little drama, and ours came in the form of multiple power outages as we were waiting in line to go through immigration to leave the country. Each time the power went out the computer system had to be reset, eating up valuable time when we should have all been heading to the gate! Gradually, at less than a turtle’s pace, each member of our group managed to make it through and we all boarded the plane, with just minutes to spare before takeoff. Of course, we learned later that this is a common occurrence and the American Airlines flight crew knows to wait for all passengers to clear security during such delays.
This was definitely a memorable trip for everyone, and one that STC will be repeating in the future. We are excited about the possibility of forging a collaborative relationship with sea turtle conservationists in Cuba, to give our members an opportunity to visit this incredible country and support a local project working to protect the region’s turtle populations!
Plastics have become a staple of modern societies across the globe. In 2012, nearly 300 million tons of new plastic items were produced. Each day, these and other plastic articles are sold, used, and disposed. However, an alarming amount of these plastics do not stay on land. Through improper disposal or direct dumping, millions of tons of plastic now call our ocean home.
According to recent studies, including a paper in the prestigious journal Science, we are facing a dire future:
As organizations committed to ocean and human health, the mounting body of science makes us increasingly concerned about the growing tide of plastics entering the ocean and its negative impacts on marine wildlife and habitats.
We’re calling on industry to work with us to stop plastic from entering the ocean.
The signees of this letter represent a diverse array of NGO stakeholders from around the world asking industry and fellow NGOs to stand by us to help stop plastics from entering the ocean. By working together, we can develop innovative solutions, including integrated waste management, at a global scale that will reduce plastic leakage from land and keep our ocean and communities vibrant and healthy.
Please join us.
Learn more at http://www.plasticpreventionletter.org/
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) would like to give a special congratulations to the winners of our 2016 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar Contest! All of the photos were truly phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter!
The winning photographs will be featured in STC’s 2016 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar, which will be available online in our gift shop in November—just in time for the holidays! Thank you to all of our participants who made this year’s selection exciting and especially difficult. If you missed out on this one, look out for the 2017 photography contest next summer!
Here are the winners:
By: Kevin Pursley
Green turtles in formation, Cliff Bonaire
By: Angelica Arroyo
Olive Ridley hatchling, Tierra Colorada, Guerrero
By: Karla Morales
Leatherback sea turtle, Dorado, Puerto Rico
By: Ben Hicks
Green sea turtle, Boca Raton, Florida
By: Adhith Swaminathan
Leatherback hatchling, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India
By: Adhith Swaminathan
Olive Ridley, Rushikulya, Orissa, India
By: Julie Suess
Hawksbill sea turtle, Turks & Caicos
By: Vince Lamb
Green sea turtle, Melbourne Beach, Florida
By: Karla Georgina Barrientos Munoz
Hawksbill hatchling, Mona Island, Puerto Rico
By: Karla Georgina Barrientos Munoz
Olive Ridley, Nancite Beach, Costa Rica
By: Ursula Dubrick
Leatherback hatchling, Melbourne Beach, Florida
By: Ben Hicks
Green sea turtle, Boca Raton, Florida
By: Karla Morales
Leatherback sea turtle, Dorado, Puerto Rico
This article originally appeared in Florida Today here.
MELBOURNE, Fla. — Four decades ago, biologists thought green sea turtles might go extinct. But this year, the endangered reptile dug a record number of nests at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, with two months still left in their nesting season.
“It’s an incredible thing,” said Llew Ehrhart, professor emeritus at University of Central Florida, who’s studied turtle nesting at Archie Carr since the 1980s.
In the 1970s, biologists could only find a handful of green sea turtles nests at Archie Carr and the Melbourne Beach area.
This year, UCF researchers counted 12,026 green turtle nests at Archie Carr refuge, already crushing a record the turtles set at the refuge in 2013 — 11,839 nests.
The nesting at Archie Carr is significant, because biologists consider that span of beach among the most important sea turtle nesting spots in North America and indicative of how turtle nesting is going as a whole.
In general, green sea turtles nesting has “on” years and “off” years, with the number of nests spiking every other year. So biologists anticipated an “on” year. But this is the first time green turtle nests surpassed 12,000 nests, UCF researchers said.
Nesting on the “on” years has ballooned, from 455 nests in 1988 to more than 8,400 nests by 2000.
And now they dig six times that amount of nests.
“This is really a comeback story,” Kate Mansfield, a UCF assistant professor of biology, said in a release. Mansfield leads a team of students and research scientists who monitor turtle counts on the beach during turtle nesting season, which runs May 1 to Oct. 1.
“It is a really remarkable recovery and reflects a ‘perfect storm’ of conservation successes,” Mansfield added, “from the establishment of the Archie Carr, to implementing the Endangered Species Act, among many other conservation initiatives. It will be very exciting to see what happens over the next 20 plus years.”
Green sea turtles are just one of three species that use the refuge as their nesting grounds.
Endangered leatherback and threatened loggerhead sea turtles also nest on Brevard County’s beaches.
Sea turtles dig about 80 percent of their nests in the United States. Archie Carr is home to one of the largest nesting beaches for loggerhead turtles in the Western Hemisphere, with among the highest density of nests.
Hatchlings paddle out against an ever-strengthening current of challenges, which only the fittest of every 10,000 fends off long enough to become an adult turtle.
The increase in green sea turtles nesting is four decades of conservation measures paying off, Ehrhart says.
Pressure from commercial fishing, diseases and habitat loss chipped away at the reptile’s numbers. Hatchlings wander into roads because of bright beach lights. In nations where their sweet-tasting meat is savored by the locals, the perils are worse.
Native Americans and early European settlers also once harvested green sea turtles for their meat.
But laws prohibiting the harvesting of sea turtles, excessive beach lighting and fishing nets that cause turtles to drown have helped their numbers rebound.
In 1978, the federal government listed the green sea turtle under the Endangered Species Act.
Green sea turtle populations in Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico are listed as endangered. Elsewhere, the species is listed as threatened.
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”.
Kirsty, a juvenile green turtle tracked by satellite as part of the collaborative Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP), has flown the coop! After being fitted with a satellite transmitter and released in Bermuda in August 2014, Kirsty’s movements and habitat use were carefully tracked by BTP researchers Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan and Robert Hardy, with scores of STC members and supporters following the turtle’s movements online.
For months, the young turtle shuttled between positions in the nearshore sea grass beds of Somerset Long Bay, where it was originally tagged, and two locations located on the west side of the Bermuda Platform. But then Kirsty did something exciting!
STC and its BTP partners learned decades ago that Bermuda’s near-shore waters provide important developmental habitat for green turtles that originate from all over the Caribbean and Atlantic. No regular nesting of green turtles occurs anymore in Bermuda, yet its waters are filled with thousands of young green turtles that arrive when they are roughly the size of a Frisbee and leave the island shortly before reaching full adulthood.
When and how they leave Bermuda, and where they go, are important mysteries in the life cycle of green turtles. In an attempt to answer these questions, STC and its partners use satellite transmitters to track some of the larger green turtles captured each year as part of the in-water monitoring program.
On June 2, 2015, with researchers watching closely, Kirsty left the Bermuda Platform and began a long migration toward what will become her adult foraging grounds. Unfortunately, Kirsty’s transmitter quit sending signals just a week into her migration, though she appeared to be headed toward known foraging grounds off the south Florida coast.
Kirsty was a big turtle (66.7 cm “Straight Carapace Length”) when measured last August, so it was not entirely unexpected that she might soon leave Bermuda. However, with scores of turtles having been tracked in Bermuda, only one other green turtle was observed by BTP researchers leaving the island.
“It was very exciting to track the start of Kirsty’s important habitat transition,” said STC Executive Director David Godfrey, “but for now her ultimate destination will remain a mystery.”
The BTP was initiated in 1968 by former STC Board Member Dr. H. Clay Frick II, in cooperation with the Bermuda Government. Since 1991, the project has been a collaborative effort of STC, the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoological Society and Drs. Peter and Anne Meylan. The research efforts of the BTP Project are focused on filling in the information gaps on green turtle biology so that successful protection may be given to these amazing animals.
In addition to annual research, every year since 1996 the BTP has offered an international in-water course on sea turtle biology and conservation. It brings students and scientists from around the world to Bermuda to study the pelagic and juvenile phases of the marine turtle life cycle, turtle biology and conservation through observation of the animals in their marine habitat, necropsies, and a capture-tag-release study.
This year’s course, to be held in August, will be led in part by STC Scientific Director Dr. Emma Harrison. This summer, STC also will host a group of Board members and donors on an exploratory trip to observe and participate in the Bermuda turtle research program.
In May of this year, STC biologists tagged a leatherback turtle with a satellite transmitter after she nested at Chiriqui Beach, Panama. That same turtle, named “Caña” by local children, was spotted by tourists after it washed ashore in Salinas del Ray, Colombia in July. Caña was positively identified by her flipper tags and still-attached satellite transmitter.
After receiving information about Caña’s fate, STC began trying to piece together what happened to the massive turtle, which had been observed healthy and nesting just two months prior.
Caña’s transmitter began sending strong signals immediately after she was released. She even returned to nest one more time before beginning her migration east toward Colombia. Caña and her transmitter were providing invaluable scientific data and her migration route proved very interesting. For the first time one of STC’s satellite-tracked leatherbacks was heading to South America. STC researchers and thousands of people were tracking Caña’s journey online and could not wait to see where she would go next.
In early July STC migration researcher Dan Evans noticed that Caña’s transmitter had been inactive for several days, which could have two possible explanations – that the transmitter had been damaged and could no longer send signals, or that Caña had not surfaced for some reason. The transmitter Caña was outfitted with is saltwater activated and sends a signal to orbiting satellites whenever the device breaks through the water’s surface, such as when she surfaces to breath or emerges onto shore.
Evans was hesitant to jump to conclusions about Caña’s fate and hoped the transmitter was simply malfunctioning and would begin sending signals again soon. Days later, Caña’s transmitter began sending a very strong signal from the shores of Colombia. On July 8, STC received an email from the Environmental Corporation of the Atlantic in Barranquilla, Colombia, stating that a tourist had found a dead leatherback washed ashore with STC’s tags and contact information. It was Caña.
STC is still awaiting the results of Caña’s necropsy, but the satellite data is very telling. Her transmitter was inactive for three consecutive days, meaning she could have been trapped underwater and drowned. Colombian waters are filled with fishing nets that indiscriminately trap anything they entangle. It is likely that Caña met her fate in one of these nets.
Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles and can only hold their breath for extended periods of time, such as when they are inactive or sleeping. If Caña was in fact trapped in a net, her struggling would have caused her to drown fairly quickly, This is only one possible explanation, but it is the most likely explanation.
Although stories like this are very sad to share, they demonstrate how important it is for STC to keep tracking sea turtles and to raise awareness about the very real threats all sea turtles face.
More photos here
Sea Turtle Conservancy is excited to have our friends from Ripley’s Aquariums sponsor a turtle in this year’s Tour de Turtles for the third year in a row! Last year, Ripley’s sponsored a loggerhead turtle named Shelley who was released from the Barrier Island Center (BIC) in Melbourne Beach. Shelley swam 761 km and came in 2nd place in the People’s Choice Award Competition! This year, Ripley’s sponsored turtle will be released from the BIC on Sunday, August 2nd and her name is…. MYRTLE!
To decide on a name for their turtle, each of the three Ripley’s Aquariums submitted a name. Those names were then voted on by Ripley’s fans. More than 6,000 online votes were received and Myrtle (submitted by Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach) was chosen as the winner! During this year’s race, Myrtle will be swimming to raise awareness about the threat of plastic debris.
For more than 90 years, Ripley Entertainment, Inc. has entertained visitors around the world, with more than 90 attractions in 10 countries. Ripley Entertainment’s three aquariums in Myrtle Beach, SC, Gatlinburg, TN, and Toronto, Canada have educated millions of visitors. In the next decade, Ripley’s plans to open more aquariums in tourist markets throughout North America and the world.
Ripley’s mission is to provide an immersive experience into the aquatic world while fostering education, conservation and research. The three aquariums are each home to more than 10,000 exotic sea creatures such as sting rays, sharks and jellyfish, which entertain, inspire and encourage visitors to respect and protect the waters of the world.
Each of the Ripley’s Aquariums are home to non-releasable green sea turtles that swim alongside sharks, moray eels and fish. There is one turtle at Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, one at Ripley’s Aquarium of Gatlinburg and two at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. All four turtles receive consistent and excellent care overseen by Dr. Robert George, Ripley’s Chief of Veterinary Services. Ripley’s sea turtle exhibits help educate the public and raise awareness about the threats that sea turtles face.
The past two Ripley’s turtles in the Tour de Turtles race have raised awareness about the dangers sea turtles face from longline fisheries. The turtles, attracted to the bait, get caught on the hooks used to catch fish. Loggerheads face higher risk to longline fisheries than most species of sea turtles because of their feeding habits.
Ripley’s is currently involved in numerous conservation efforts such as the AZA’s Party for the Planet/Earth Day Celebration and Species Survival Program, as well as participation in International Coastal Cleanup and other local community cleanups. Ripley’s Aquarium Conservation Team is partnering with the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol to help monitor sea turtle nests along previously unmonitored portions of the beach. Other actions include partnership with the organization Ocean Wise to support sustainable seafood and efforts to reduce in-building energy and water usage.
One of Ripley’s Aquariums main goals is to promote conservation and protection of marine wildlife, and Tour de Turtles is an excellent way to achieve this goal! Ripley’s especially feels that it is important to support sea turtle conservation efforts and sees Tour de Turtles as a way to engage and educate guests about sea turtles.
STC would like to thank Ripley’s Aquariums for its continued support of our Tour de Turtles program!