Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) was fortunate to be funded in whole by a grant awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is supported by a portion of revenues from Florida’s Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate. The Sea Turtle Grants Program distributes money annually 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.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, 15 million tourists visited Pinellas County in 2019 alone. With so many visitors, there is a real need to provide education about what they might see on our beaches. Additionally, we need to give information on how to protect animals that share the beaches tourists will use during their stay, as well as provide important phone numbers to call when reporting concerns about marine life they see. This grant was used to create and install two types of educational signage that were designed to provide beachgoers with straightforward information about how to minimize their impact on sea turtles, hatchlings, and their nests, and to encourage beachgoers to report any concerns they may have. One type of sign was installed at public beach accesses in multiple municipalities in Pinellas County. Once installation is finalized, over 100 signs will be installed in nine different municipalities and one county park! The other type of sign was applied to over 250 marked sea turtle nest sites along the 21 miles of beaches that CMA monitored in Pinellas County in the 2021 nesting season.
Advantages of Sea Turtle Educational Signage on Beaches
These signs have informative statements and descriptive pictures that will allow beachgoers to easily discern behaviors and actions that might cause harm to sea turtles and nests. These images are emphasized by contrast in colors, which allows beachgoers to easily understand the information on the signs without having to spend a lot of time reading.
The signs ask that while beachgoers are using the beach, that they:
- Fill in holes and knockdown sandcastles at the end of the beach day, as both can act as obstructions to nesting sea turtles
- Take all of their property and trash with them, as these items can deter sea turtles from nesting if they encounter them overnight
- Leave all forms of artificial light, such as cameras and flashlights, at home, as this type of light can confuse nesting turtles and hatchlings, and cause them to crawl toward that light instead of the water
- Do not touch nesting sea turtles or hatchlings
- Do not disturb marked sea turtle nests
The signs also list phone numbers for the CMA Rescue Hotline and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert Hotline, which can be used to report any concerns regarding sea turtles or their nests in CMA’s survey area. We intend for beachgoers to use these phone numbers to report any concerns including, but not limited to, sea turtle strandings, human harassment of sea turtles, or adult and hatchling sea turtle disorientations (a condition where sea turtles wander the beach because they are having a difficult time locating the water).
The beach access signs also clearly state that it is against the law to interact with sea turtles under the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act. Finally, both types of signs give helpful information on how to contribute to the Sea Turtle Grants Program.
Help Support the Sea Turtle Grants Program.
The addition of these signs was funded in whole by a grant awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. Clearwater Marine Aquarium greatly appreciates the support from the Sea Turtle Grants Program and has previously been awarded funds for education, equipment to aid in sea turtle surgery, and for the purchase of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for annual sea turtle nesting surveys.
The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded by a portion of revenues from Florida’s Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate. If you’d like to support sea turtle projects like this, and live in the state of Florida, please consider purchasing the sea turtle license plate. To learn more about the sea turtle license plate, and the Sea Turtle Grants Program, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org.
All marine turtle footage taken in Florida was obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to marine turtles. Footage was acquired while conducting authorized conservation activities pursuant to FWC MTP-20-263 and MTP-20-013.