STC Sea Turtle Blog

Tips for Sea Turtle Nesting Season May – October

It’s that time of the year again; nesting season is here in the state of Florida! The majority of nesting in Florida occurs between May 1st and October 31st.  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!

Loggerhead returns to sea after nesting (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington)

Loggerhead returns to sea after nesting (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington)

Use sea turtle-friendly lights or no lights at all! In order to prevent nesting and hatchling turtles from wandering off track, your beachfront property should use sea turtle friendly lighting. You can also help by closing drapes and blinds, and shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach. Sea turtle hatchlings can become easily disoriented by bright lights on the coast from hotels and beachfront properties. By following these steps, you can encourage females to nest and lead hatchlings in the right direction, the ocean!

Tracks from disoriented hatchlings. Their tracks should lead straight to the sea.

Tracks from disoriented hatchlings. Their tracks should lead straight to the sea.

Knock down sandcastles and fill in holes! 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. Even the nesting mothers can become stuck in these holes when crawling up the beach to nest. Furthermore, remove all beach accessories, such as tents, umbrellas, toys, and chairs. These can prevent obstacles for both the mother and the hatchlings.

An adult loggerhead fell into a large hole on the beach and had to be rescued by Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol

An adult loggerhead fell into a large hole on the beach and had to be rescued by Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol

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. Leaving food outside for neighborhood dogs and cats also attracts raccoons. You can help deter these animals from destroying sea turtle eggs by cleaning up food and additional trash after a day at the beach.

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.

nesting tape FWC

Don’t interfere with the nesting or 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. It is also illegal to touch sea turtles under both federal and state laws.

Don’t place 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 as they become a dangerous obstacle for a nesting turtles.

Loggerhead turtle stuck under a chair that was left on the beach. Photo via Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch

Loggerhead turtle stuck under a chair that was left on the beach. Photo via Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch

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. Bonfires on the beach also pose a danger to sea turtles.no fireworks

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 /.

Photo courtesy Greg Lovett, Palm Beach Post

Photo courtesy Greg Lovett, Palm Beach Post (taken using long-exposure, no flash)

8th Annual Eco-Explorers Summer Camp at the Barrier Island Center

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

The Barrier Island Center, nestled in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida, is bringing back the Eco-Explorers Summer Camps program in 2016. The camps run throughout the month of June and are offered to children ages 9 to 15.

 

Giant Red & Brown Striped Hermit Crab Snorkeling Finds

Participants will enjoy unforgettable experiences, from snorkeling to explore life below the ocean surface and kayaking and paddle boarding to observe first-hand the diversity of life on the Indian River Lagoon, to surfing to further connect with the very beach that attracts more nesting sea turtles than virtually any place on Earth.

Camp dates:

  • June 6-10
  • June 13-17
  • June 20-24
  • June 27-July 1

 

IMG_3002Each session offered will cost $325 and includes transportation, certified aquatic instructors, equipment, t-shirt, a year-long Sea Turtle Conservancy honorary e-membership and a complimentary guided sea turtle walk with preferred reservation! To enroll, complete and fax THIS FORM to 321-952-3207. You may then call 321-723-3556 to make your payment. For more information, visit our website. Enrollment is limited to 13 per week and spots fill up quickly! For questions, please email donnalee@conserveturtles.org We hope to see you there!

 

 

015_15

 

Join STC for a Cuba Sea Turtle Expedition in June 2016!

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.

MAIN-nesting-sea-turtle-stock

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.

Program highlights:

Photo of Havana by Andrea Holbrook

  • Travel with two experts from the Sea Turtle Conservancy and a Cuban marine turtle specialist.
  • Observe the nesting process of green sea turtles and collect data with biologists.
  • Snorkel the clear waters of the coral reef at Maria la Gorda(optional scuba diving may also be available at an additional charge).
  • Meet with local conservationists, marine researchers and a wildlife artist.
  • Visit the picturesque town of Vinales.
  • Stop at Hemingway’s home, Finca La Vigia.
  • Support the ongoing research and conservation projects of The Ocean Foundation

Participants will also enjoy activities such as a walking tour of Old Havana, a visit to the National Museum of 20150910_172220Natural History, a visit to the Alamar Organoponic Gardens and leisure time.

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:

Program pricing:

  • $3285 plus airfare

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).

Information and registration:

  • To see a full itinerary of the expedition and secure your spot, visit Holbrook travel’s website link here: http://www.holbrooktravel.com/where-we-travel/americas/cuba/cuba-sea-turtle-expedition-sea-turtle-conservancy-0 
  • For further questions, contact Lisa Palmese-Graubard by email at lisa@holbrooktravel.com or by phone at 800-451-7111 x339

Sea Turtle Grants Program Awards More Than $300,000 to Research, Conservation and Education Projects in Florida

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.

SeaTurtleLicensePlate - Copy

 

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.

 

Enter Your Turtle Art for a Chance to Win a 3 Night Stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis!

**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!

Cert Picture

July 2015 Nevis Tour de Turtles release

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.

FS4

Photo credit: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

FS2

Photo credit: Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies

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.

Neve (6)

July 2012 Nevis Tour de Turtles release

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 lexie@conserveturtles.org

**UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED LATER THIS MONTH!**

 

Thanks to Donors, Progress Underway on “Kontiki” Rebuild Project in Tortuguero

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.

Tortuguero staff housing

The Kontiki before renovations

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.

20160215_093923

Exterior demolition of the old Kontiki

20160208_113201

Interior demolition of the old Kontiki

Tortuguero Kontiki House drawing2

Exterior design for the new Kontiki

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!

12105742_997141040342571_2445088887071483112_n

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 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 Aheadofthetide.org.

In Memorium – Larry Ogren

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.

A young Larry in Tortuguero in the 1960's. Photo credit "Turning Turtles in Tortuguero"

A young Larry in Tortuguero in the 1960’s. Photo credit “Turning Turtles in Tortuguero”

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.

Larry Ogren - Turning Turtles with monkey

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.

Archie (Chuck) Carr III, Larry Ogren & STC Executive Director David Godfrey

Archie (Chuck) Carr III, Larry Ogren & STC Executive Director David Godfrey

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.

Photo credit: "Turning Turtles in Tortuguero"

Photo credit: “Turning Turtles in Tortuguero”

Flippery When Wet Soaps Raise Money for Sea Turtles

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.’

 

lisa

Lisa Jo Randgaard

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.

soap

Flippery When Wet soap bars come in Citrus, Lavender-Litsea, Lemongrass, Rosemary-Mint and our newest arrival – Sea Clay!

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.

soap1

Jenny, Linda holding Carmen, Tom, Diane & Jerry Randgaard

Save the Date! #GivingTuesday is Dec. 1st!

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!

GivingTuesday Banner 2015 with STC logo copy

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!

STC’s First Turtle Expedition to Cuba

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.

20150906_100404 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.

The organic farm where we learned about sustainable urban agricultural.

The organic farm where we learned about sustainable urban agricultural.

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 david@conserveturtles.org to inquire about reserving a spot. Like this year’s expedition, spaces will fill up quickly.

cuba green turtle nature.peninsula.guanahacab

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.

FB_IMG_1442269405023The 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.

Observing a nest excavation on the beach

Observing a nest excavation on the beach

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.

20150906_173750An 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.20150910_122154

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!

 

 

Help Stop Plastics From Entering the Ocean

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:

  • 5-14 million tons of plastic enter our ocean each year from land-based sources.
  • Over 50% of plastic entering the ocean comes from just five countries where there is a lack of waste management capacity.
  • By 2025, for every three tons of finfish swimming in the ocean, there could be one ton of plastic in marine waters as well.
  • Plastics are already negatively affecting more than 660 marine wildlife species.

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.

f you would like to add your organization as a signatory, please email:  plasticpreventionletter@gmail.com

If you would like to add your organization as a signatory, please email: plasticpreventionletter@gmail.com

Learn more at http://www.plasticpreventionletter.org/

2016 Sea Turtle Calendar Contest Winners!

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:

COVER PHOTO

By: Kevin Pursley

Green turtles in formation, Cliff Bonaire

Kevin Pursley4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY

By: Angelica Arroyo

Olive Ridley hatchling, Tierra Colorada, Guerrero

Arroyo resized

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY

By: Karla Morales

Leatherback sea turtle, Dorado, Puerto Rico

Karla Morales3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH

By: Ben Hicks

Green sea turtle, Boca Raton, Florida

Ben Hicks - 540Z1731GreenSeaTurtleDFB2015crop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL

By: Adhith Swaminathan

Leatherback hatchling, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India

Adhith46

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAY

By: Adhith Swaminathan

Olive Ridley, Rushikulya, Orissa, India

Adhith93

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE

By: Julie Suess

Hawksbill sea turtle, Turks & Caicos

Julie Suess3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JULY

By: Vince Lamb

Green sea turtle, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Green-with-Reflection_Vince Lamb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST

By: Karla Georgina Barrientos Munoz

Hawksbill hatchling, Mona Island, Puerto Rico

SAM_0540

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER

By: Karla Georgina Barrientos Munoz

Olive Ridley, Nancite Beach, Costa Rica

L.olivacea_adulta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER

By: Ursula Dubrick

Leatherback hatchling, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Ursula Dubrick leatherback hatchling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOVEMBER

By: Ben Hicks

Green sea turtle, Boca Raton, Florida

 

IMG_9739GreenSeaTurtleWatershot2015DFB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECEMBER

By: Karla Morales

Leatherback sea turtle, Dorado, Puerto Rico

Karla Morales4

 

 

Endangered Green Sea Turtles Shatter Nesting Record in Archie Carr Refuge

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.

Tour de Turtles 2015

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.

7Q7A4333TDT.LaunchReleaseMelbourneAug2.2015

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-pic (1)

 Calypso Blue IV, Leatherback

Sponsor: Atlantis Paradise Island

Cause: Commercial Trawl Fisheries

 

 

 

 

Myrtle,  Loggerhead

Sponsor: Ripley’s Aquariums

Cause: Plastic Debris

 

 

Marina-pic

 

Marina, Loggerhead

Sponsor: Disney Conservation Fund

Cause: Plastic Debris

 

 

Susie Q, Green Turtle

Sponsor: Turtle & Hughes, Inc.

Cause: Light Pollution

 

 

 

Dash, Loggerhead

Sponsor: Shark Reef

Cause: Commercial Longline Fisheries

 

 

 

Tinkerbell, Loggerhead

Sponsors: Disney’s Animal Protection Programs & Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Cause: Water Quality

 

 

 

Millie, HawksbillMillie-pic

Sponsor: Four Seasons

Cause: Water Quality

 

 

 

Insolites, Leatherback 

Sponsor: Continents Insolites SAS

Cause: Invasive Species Predation

 

 

 

Pawikan, Green Turtle

Sponsor: Pacsafe

Cause: Egg Harvest for Consumption

 

 

 

Luna, HawksillLuna-pic

Sponsor: Four Seasons

Cause: Climate Change

 

 

 

Tiki, Hawksbill

Sponsors: Treadright Foundation & Contiki

Cause: Illegal Shell Trading

 

 

 

Aaron, Loggerhead

Sponsor: The Turtle Hospital

Cause: Boat Strikes

 

 

 

Amie, LoggerheadAmie-pic

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”.

Bermuda green sea turtle “Kirsty” surprises researchers

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.

Kirsty, a juvenile green sea turtle being tracked by satellite as part of the Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP)

Kirsty, a juvenile green sea turtle being tracked by satellite as part of the Bermuda Turtle Project (BTP)

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.

A map of Kirsty's migration provided by her satellite transmitter

A map of Kirsty’s migration provided by her satellite transmitter

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.

Kirsty after being outfitted with a satellite transmitter

Kirsty after being outfitted with a satellite transmitter

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.

Your Shopping Cart
Subtotal: $0.00  (0 items)
Your shopping cart is empty
Start Shopping!