When the sea grapes at Bayport Beach & Tennis Club get trimmed down to a size so that you can see the beautiful beach and Gulf waters, then you know turtle-nesting is over for the season. A wrap-up meeting is always held in the fall, and, at this one, it was clear that the Longboat Key Turtle Watch group, besides monitoring the sea-turtle nesting and hatching processes, is active in other ways. The group educates the public, cleans our beaches, raises money and sponsors camp scholarships for children.
The guidance counselors at Anna Maria Elementary School select children who would not otherwise have a camping opportunity and who have shown an interest in the environment. Lucinda Hathaway shared with the group some of the thank-you notes and pictures she received from the campers.
Presiding at the meeting were President Tim Thurman, Vice Presisent Cyndi Seamon, Treasurer Mary Jean Wenzel, Co-Recording Secretary Natalie Treonis and Secretary Dick Williams.
Thurman presented a beautiful turtle portrait to Freda Perrotta in recognition for her many years of service to the Longboat Key Turtle Watch as treasurer and for her many activities in education and outreach to the public for the benefit of sea turtles. She will remain on the board of directors. Perrotta reported on the name-the-stake program that garnered 70 named stakes this year, which shows the public liked the program. Purchasers get a note from Perrotta, giving them the date, location, hatch and excavation data of their named nest.
The Longboat Key Turtle Watch operates under the umbrella of Mote Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Program, and it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Dr. Tony Tucker and Holly West, both Mote staff members, prepared proposals to enhance and upgrade the new sea-turtle exhibit at Mote. Turtle Watch stepped up to the plate in making these improvements happen. Press releases will announce the generous donations and credit the Longboat Key Turtle Watch, accordingly. A personal thank-you was sent to the group from Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory.
Now, let’s do the numbers. According to data from the Florida Wildlife Research Institute, loggerhead nest numbers were down by more than 15%. This represents most nests statewide, from 26 beaches that the state has been monitoring since 1989. On the six beaches surveyed yearly by Mote, the nest numbers have dropped more than 19%, with almost 200 fewer nests this year than last. For just Longboat Key (both Sarasota and Manatee counties), we had 216 nests laid in 2009, compared to 252 nests in 2008. In addition, we had 19 disorientations in ’09. We will hope to fare better in 2010.
If you are interested in joining the Longboat Key Turtle Watch, call Cyndi Seamon at 586-1813.
Virginia Sanders is the spokesperson for the Longboat Key Turtle Conservation Program, serves on the Citizens Advisory Board of the National Estuary Program and is a Mote Marine volunteer.
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