Everyone Should Volunteer a Morning with Longboat Key Turtle Watch!

Everyone Should Volunteer a Morning with Longboat Key Turtle Watch!

On Saturday October 5, 2018, I had the pleasure of joining the Longboat Key Turtle Watch in a coastal cleanup effort while representing Trash Swag Inc. I learned about this organization from their vice president, Cyndi Seamon during a local market.  Cyndi was super friendly and passionate about being a good steward for keeping our local beaches clean.

The Longboat Key Turtle Watch is a not-for-profit permitted with the Florida Wildlife Commission under Mote Marine Laboratory, and is authorized perform activities associated with Sea Turtle nesting. The LBKTW is comprised of more than 40 volunteers committed to walking roughly 4.5 miles of coastline a day during nesting season April 15- October 31 covering 4 different zones between the Manatee County Line (Sea Club Resort) and north to Greer Island on Longboat Key.

A typical morning for the LBKTW volunteers starts at about 5:15am for a 6:30am beach patrol where volunteers are divided into their designated zones, equipped with marking sticks, tape, datasheets, and reusable grocery bags (used for collecting garbage). Volunteers comb the beach looking for signs of new nesting, disturbed nests, and to remove trash/debris from the coastline and sea oats that could potentially harm sea turtles during nesting.

Geared up in my Trash Swag racer tank, hat, favorite board shorts, camel back, reusable grocery bag, trash picker, sunglasses, and a thick smear of sunscreen. I set out on my first coastal cleanup as a representative of my newly launched business and as an advocate for plastic free/clean beaches. Upon my arrival I was greeted by Dawn DiFoggio the LBKTW beach (Coordinator/Board Member), Cyndi Seamon (Vice President), Tim Thurman (President) whom I had the honor of walking with on this particular morning along with 15 plus future Agriculture FFA leaders.

Fueled by the magnetic energy surrounding me with a group of selfless individuals we set off to spend what has become one of the best Saturday mornings I have experienced in a longtime!

Before starting our walk, our teams were broken into smaller units with each team spanning from the waterline inland to ensure that each team was combing as much beach front as possible. I found myself walking in the middle of the sea oats which are vital for beach conservation and the ecosystem. Sea Oats help protect the beach from erosion during high winds and storms while providing protection and sanctuary for wildlife. Given the importance of these magnificent plants, it is imperative that you walk through them respectfully without destroying their unique root structures and when possible access the beach through the provided pathways. Sea turtles and birds often use these protected areas to lay their eggs as they provide safety from predators and weather.

Sadly, after a short few steps I started filling my bags with plastic straws, water bottles, broken beach toys, cigarette butts, plastic bags, water bottle caps, and we even dug out a few broken beach chairs that had been buried in the sea oats. Unfortunately, all of these things are left behind by beach goers who with no regard think about the effects their impact leaves on the natural ecosystem. And in this moment of quiet disappointment, surrounded by the magnificent beauty of the Gulf of Mexico, I reflected on the fact that “I can’t change the world but I can change how I can make an impact”!

During our walk (President) Tim Thurman educated us on how to identify sea turtle nests, how to mark nests that have recently been created, and sadly showed us what a compromised nest looks like due to predators. Educational and Inspiring here are a few things I learned with LBKTW.

The Loggerhead turtle is the most common type of sea turtle found in Florida along with the Green Turtle. The female sea turtle faithfully returns to her native shoreline once or twice a season, waddling up towards the sea oats to form a chamber to lay her eggs. On average the female sea turtle will lay 80-120 eggs with incubation taking about 60 days. Once the baby sea turtles (hatchlings) are ready to emerge, they must break through their egg and as a group dig their way to the beach surface. Following the brightest light in the horizon the hatchlings will make their journey towards the ocean but this is very difficult and dangerous task with only 1:1000 surviving till adulthood.

The life of a sea turtle is a beautiful and rare given the statistics and that is why we must do all we can to protect these majestical creatures from harm and aide in their protection/survival.

Here are some tips from Mote Marine Laboratories for keeping our beaches Turtle friendly.

  • Stay away from clearly marked nesting zones (often marked with wooden stakes and yellow tape).
  • Coastal homes should turn off visible porch lights during nesting season or opt to use FWC approved turtle lights.
  • Remove or store unused beach furniture from the beach and sea oat areas.
  • Remember to fill your holes after you have had a play on the beach.
  • Do not shine lights and refrain from using flashlights on the beach during nesting season.
  • If you are so lucky - Do not touch or try to help the hatchlings find their way to the water. Instead let nature do what it does best!
  • Do not allow your pets to roam free on the beach or dig in protected areas along the coast.

Additionally, here are a few ecofriendly tips for keeping our beaches trash free and becoming a good steward of the ocean.

  • Bring your own reusable water bottle.
  • Ditch the plastic bag and use a reusable grocery bag for collecting your trash.
  • If you see the rubbish bin is full, opt to find another one, or dispose and sort the trash at home.
  • If you bring it, take it home! Remove your broken beach chairs and kids toys from the beach.
  • Use reusable packaging for your beach snacks and food.
  • Ditch the plastic straw and use a paper or reusable straw instead.
  • Do some community service by cleaning up one bucket full of trash during your time at the beach.
  • Be better than thy neighbor and cleanup any discarded trash you see rather than walking over it or past it.
  • Use sunscreen that is free of harmful chemicals that destroys coral reefs (check the label).

The LBKTW is an incredible organization and I feel honored that I was invited to come out to Longboat Key to volunteer my time to their efforts for keeping the Sarasota & Manatee coastlines trash free and for providing sanctuary for sea turtle nesting. My time with the LBKTW was educational and inspiring and I highly recommend volunteering one Saturday with the LBKTW. It is a great way for you to learn about Florida’s unique coastlines, sea life, conservation, and how you might be able to “Be the Impact” for future generations to come!

You won’t regret it!

Trash Swag Inc., Owner

Desiree McLaughlin

 

References:

Longboat Key Turtle Watch. (2019). How to Help - Learn About Sea Turtles. Retrieved February 9, 2019, from https://www.lbkturtlewatch.org/learn_about_sea_turtles

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. (2019). Environmental Updates. Retrieved February 9, 2019, from https://mote.org/news/environment-updates#SeaTurtleNestingUpdates

Sea Turtle Conservancy. (2019). » Information About Sea Turtles: General Behavior. Retrieved February 10, 2019, from https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-general-behavior/


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