Turtle season on Anna Maria Island

Hatching season brings a community together


Photo courtesy of pixabay.com via Creative Commons

Emily Payne, Author

Just south of the Tampa Bay on the West Coast of Florida, Anna Maria Island sits in a lively ecosystem of marine life ranging from stingrays to sharks on a daily basis. The island is home to a variety of turtles, the most common being the land dwelling Gopher Tortoises and Box turtles, as well as sea turtles such as Loggerheads.

With so many types of turtles indigenous to the beaches, the island has instituted an island-wide turtle watch program, where volunteers strive to protect all turtles and help them get to the water or to a safer place. People living on the island or just visiting must abide by the laws in place. By 8 pm, all lights should be turned off, adjusted, or a window must be shut so that baby turtles do not mistake the lights as the moon and crawl towards the house. It is also important to clean up after a day at the beach, so that the hatchlings have a safe path to the water.

Just last month, a group of volunteers from the island gathered all of the turtles who could not make it to the water on time (washbacks), and worked to release them into the ocean. The team successfully transported 300 turtles off of the east coast and plan to release more next year, according to thesun.com. Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring said, “This year has been a record setter for the turtles and the volunteers. I cannot wait to see what the new year will bring.”

One of the newest conservation efforts the island is starting is called “Dunes do’s and do not’s” in collaboration with Manatee County with the assistance of Christine Callahan, the butterfly garden coordinator at Anna Maria Elementary School, will provide free laminated signs decorated by local children warning people not to walk on or pick sea oats from sand dunes. Think Tank educators have all agreed that “it’s a great way to bring a community together, while educating at the same time.”

For more information on the island and how you can help, visit http://islandturtlewatch.com/