For many islanders, May marks the end of the Busy Season. The traffic improves and, for some, thoughts turn to northern homes and summer travels. But for a dedicated group of staff and volunteers at SCCF – those working tirelessly in the Sea Turtle Program – the Busy Nesting Season is just heating up.
The sea turtle season is officially underway and the first nest of the season was laid on April 22nd – what a great marker that was to celebrate Earth Day! We’re coming off a record year for sea turtles on our beaches, with 522 nests laid on Sanibel and 133 nests laid on Captiva in 2015.
Protecting the nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on our beaches would literally not be possible without the tireless efforts of more than 100 SCCF volunteers and a small but dedicated group of staffers. Every morning from April through October, they survey 18 miles of beach. Rain or shine, usually in the company of no-see-ums, they search for tracks that sea turtles might have left behind when emerging from the sea to nest. The discovered nests are staked and then monitored daily until the hatchlings begin crawling to the Gulf. Storms, humans and predators may disturb or destroy the nests, reducing their survival. After the nests hatch, they are evaluated to determine the number of hatchlings that successfully emerged.
SCCF’s volunteers play a huge role in educating folks on the beach about keeping the beaches safe for nesting sea turtles by turning off lights, removing beach furniture at night, and filling in large holes that could trap turtles. Our volunteers also help to reduce the amount of trash left on the beach. Last year they collected over 800 gallons of trash that could have been ingested by sea turtles and other marine creatures.
In addition to nest protection activities, the sea turtle program also responds to live and dead sea turtles that wash up on the beach, participates in collaborative research projects, and helps monitor beach construction projects. This season, we are very excited and proud to launch our nighttime tagging project that will provide important data for our nesting research on Sanibel and Captiva. This new work will add our local data to the research currently being done by Mote Marine in Sarasota and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Keewaydin Island.
Please consider celebrating the start of Sea Turtle Season by supporting SCCF’s conservation activities. If you have not yet contributed to SCCF’s Annual Fund Drive, your gift will qualify you as a Member in Good Standing for another year. If you have already made a donation this year, we hope you might consider supporting the new Adopt-A-Beach Program to help fund sea turtle monitoring. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for those of you looking for a different way to support SCCF and the sea turtles, you are invited to join Yali Zawady of Ambu Yoga on Friday, May 6 at 7:30pm. She is leading a New Moon Meditation on Alison Hagerup Beach Park at the end of Captiva Drive. Once a month, instead of class fees, Yali accepts donations for the Adopt-A-Beach Program, and an anonymous donor will match your donation. To learn more visit www.ambuyoga.com.