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Volunteering for Sea Turtle Patrols

Volunteers are an important part of the Department of Environmental Protection�s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas� (CAMA) effort to protect Florida�s coastal resources.

Florida beaches host over 90 percent of all sea turtle nests in the continental United States. Of the six sea turtle species that use U.S. waters and beaches, all are designated as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Sea turtle nesting season is from May 1st through October 31st for most of Florida. In Brevard through Broward counties, nesting season is between March 1st and October 31st.

Most sea turtles nesting on St. Joseph Peninsula in Gulf County are loggerheads (Caretta caretta). Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) also nest along the peninsula every other year. This area has the highest density of nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the panhandle. Genetic studies have shown that the loggerheads nesting in the Florida Panhandle are a separate population. Because these turtles do not nest anywhere else in the world, loggerheads are not likely to ever repopulate this area if they disappear.

Volunteers checking a sea turtle nest

Volunteers checking a nest.

Volunteers on the Turtle Patrol survey the beach daily from May to October. They collect and submit data on the turtles and identify and mark new nests. During hatching season, nests are checked for signs of emergence and dug up afterwards to determine hatch success. Dedicated volunteers and support from the local community are critical to the success of this monitoring program.

You can volunteer with CAMA for turtle patrols at the following sites:

  1. Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve in Gulf and Franklin counties
  2. Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve in St. Johns County
  3. Rookery Bay Reserve in Collier County

Tasks include surveying beaches, recording data, posting nesting signs, building cages to protect nests from predators and excavating nests to record hatching success.

Things you can do to help:

  • Report sea turtle sightings and hazards to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC.
  • Never disturb a nesting female, nests or emerging hatchlings.
  • Sea turtles can get disoriented by beachfront lighting. Be sure to shield indoor lights and turn off outdoor lights after dark.
  • Fires and fireworks can also disorient sea turtles. Avoid these activities on beaches during nesting season.
  • Recreational equipment left on beaches overnight can block or ensnare nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings. Make sure to remove equipment and stack beach furniture.
  • Stay off the dunes where sea turtles nest.

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Last updated: April 06, 2015

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