You Ask, We Answer: Distressed Sea Turtles

By Kathy Worley | Conservancy Environmental Science Director

One of our members recently sent in an email asking a question and Environmental Science Director Worley provided a response. As this particular topic is very relevant right now, we wanted to share it with all of you.

If YOU have a question about the environment here in Southwest Florida — whether it be about our water, land, or wildlife, send an email to or post it to our Facebook page. We will do our best to answer it for you, and potentially use it to create a blog just like this one!

The Question:

How is the [the Conservancy of Southwest Florida] helping these turtles? I’m curious what can be done other than stopping red tide?

The Answer:

What the Conservancy Does

On Keewaydin Island, we give nature a boost by protecting hatchlings from predators such as raccoons, hogs and coyotes by caging the nests to exclude these predators.

Conservancy Biologist Leif Johnson installing a protective nest on Keewaydin Island

We have one of the longest running sea turtle nesting monitoring and hatching success projects in the world to help with prediction swings in population levels and provide avenues for researches to monitor genetic diversity, nest temperature and storm impacts over time and health and longevity of these amazing creatures.

Our satellite tagging program tracks adult loggerheads and greens and juvenile Kemp’s ridley turtles to figure out migration patterns and foraging areas when they are not in our area to encourage saving these important habitats.

We work to figure out the diet preferences of the endangered juvenile Kemp’s ridley and habitat fidelity in relation to a changing ecosystem.

We also respond to strandings on the beaches we monitor. Ithe turtle is still alive, we take it to the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife — CROW — for rehabilitation. If it is deceased, we attempt to figure out the cause or send to FWC for later necropsy. This is important as it gives us a small subset of the population and we can track mortality causes from year to year for implications to population trends.

What You Can Do

If you live on the coast, turn you lights off during nesting season from May through October.

If you take plastic to the beach, make sure that you take it back home with you. If we could reduce the plastic and trash within our oceans, not only would this help to prevent ingestion and strangling incidents with turtles, but with other marine animals. This includes things like fishing line, cups, straws, etc..

When oil drilling is proposed offshore, write your government and ask them to remember the Deep Horizons and the numerous sea turtles that were killed or got sick from the spill and has ruined (still) some of the benthic habitat they depend on.

Support banning gill nets world wide and require turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for all fishing nets as the mortality from net entanglement is huge.

You can also support rules to limit where longliners fish (not over sea turtle foraging areas. This would cut down a lot of unintentional drowning.

Be careful during boating activities so the turtles are not hit. It’s just like driving a car — watch where you are going.

Buy fish that are caught by turtle friendly fisheries.

Environmental Science Department

Scientists at the Conservancy have an active research agenda aimed at enhancing our understanding of ecosystems and associated wildlife in Southwest Florida.

Conservancy of SWFL

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Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of and forever.

Environmental Science Department

Scientists at the Conservancy have an active research agenda aimed at enhancing our understanding of ecosystems and associated wildlife in Southwest Florida.

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