Coastal Cleanup Corporation (CCC), a local non-profit organization dedicated to removing marine debris from the South Florida coastline, recently received a grant from the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is funded by the sales of the sea turtle specialty license plate. CCC received the grant to support its efforts to restore sea turtle nesting habitat on Elliott Key within Biscayne National Park (BNP). In the fall of this year, volunteers from the organization will coordinate with BNP resource managers to begin removing tons of marine debris from the shoreline of Elliott Key where loggerhead sea turtles nest.
Much of the debris that accumulates along the South Florida coastline originates not only from people littering along local beaches, but also from ocean dumping. Derelict fishing gear, plastic, Styrofoam, polypropylene rope, rubber, and other manmade materials drift onto Elliott Key’s shoreline, brought by currents that flow from South and Central America as well as from the Caribbean. The marine debris that accumulates on the barrier islands of Biscayne National Park can interfere with adult sea turtle nesting activity and can likewise hinder the progress of hatchling sea turtles as they emerge from the nests and head out to sea.
CCC was chosen for the award through a competitive application process that is open to coastal county governments, educational institutions, and Florida-based nonprofit groups striving to improve the livelihood of sea turtles and conserve Florida habitats.
Launched in 1996, the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate raises money for two important programs that benefit Florida sea turtles — the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program and the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which distributes money back to the local level for turtle conservation projects.
The sea turtle specialty plate is currently No. 2 in sales, having sold 66,696 plates in 2010 — second only to the University of Florida specialty plate. The loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, currently is listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species in Florida. “We are grateful for the generous support from the Sea Turtle Conservancy,” said George Pappas, Coastal Cleanup Corporation director.
“It will give our volunteers the opportunity to be directly involved in improving sea turtle nesting habitat within Biscayne National Park and to hopefully play a role in increasing the population of sea turtles in the Atlantic Ocean,” he added.
“It’s rewarding to know that so many people share our concern for Florida’s sea turtles,” said David Godfrey, Sea Turtle Conservancy executive director. “What we do in this state has a dramatic impact on sea turtle populations around the world. By purchasing the sea turtle specialty plate, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save these amazing creatures.”
To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org