Florida’s beaches are some the most important sea turtle nesting habitats in the world, with several threatened and endangered species nesting here. The Tour de Turtles is an annual conservation effort created by the Sea Turtle Conservancy (based in Gainesville, FL) in 2008 for the purpose of raising awareness about sea turtle migration.
These magnificent animals are safely and temporarily caught, tracked and released every year on the beaches of regions like Panama, Costa Rica, Nevis, and the Florida coast. They swim through the ocean at remarkable speeds along migration paths to seagrass feeding areas after nesting. They are tracked find out which turtle travels the furthest and the fastest during a three month period.
Individuals get involved by sponsoring a turtle, then following that turtle’s progress as it participates in the great turtle race! The communities that participate in the event each year release their turtles on separate planned dates.
This year, Nevis, Costa Rica, and Florida all had scheduled turtle releases at various dates, starting with a Tour de Turtles AMI release on June 20th, followed by a release in Nevis on July 16th and July 17th, another release in the Florida Keys on July 21st, the main Florida release at Melbourne Beach on July 30th, and one in Costa Rica on August 6th and 7th.
The 2017 Anna Maria Island Tour de Turtles Release
Anna Maria Island locals and conservation agencies are passionate when it comes to protecting these valuable and adored animals. The island participated in the Tour de Turtles for the second time ever this year, releasing a massive 300-pound sea turtle nicknamed Eliza Ann to represent the community.
2017’s Tour de Turtles AMI was a major success and benefited both the sea turtles and the community. Several turtle supporters and educators traveled to the island for the event, and many local volunteers participated as well. It provided a lot of local buzz and was an exciting event for families and conservationists to participate in.
Several volunteers monitored a stretch of beach overnight to locate Eliza Ann, a nesting female, at Coquina Beach. She was tagged with a safe satellite tracking device until her release, which was held on the morning of June 20th, 2017 at Coquina Beach.
About 100 people watched Eliza Ann slowly crawl to the Gulf, where she would embark on her long trip to feed on nutrient loaded seagrass beds hundreds of miles away and compete against the other turtles on the tour.
Barrier Island Center activities leading up to the turtle release
Several workshops and other activities also took place at the Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach, Florida in the days leading up to Florida’s main turtle release on July 30th.
May 1st marked the annual “Lights Out” effort, when beach residents through Florida are asked to turn off any lights on the beach after 9 PM. Doing so helps sea turtles navigate their way back to the beach.
Florida residents were also invited by the BIC to participate in a hatchling sea turtle rescue, bringing any wayward tiny turtle hatchlings to the center for recovery.
Other events included a Reef Fish ID Workshop, Upcycled Succulent Workshop and other family friendly events. The main sea turtle release on July 30th was open to families for observation at the Barrier Island Center. Tee-shirts were sold to further support conservation efforts.
Families, scientists, conservationists and others gathered at beaches in all participating regions for similar festivities. Unity in the conservation of sea turtles brought everyone together in warmth, fun, and an educational opportunity like no other.
The Tour de Turtles AMI event continues to be successful at its goal of raising awareness for sea turtle conservation. We certainly hope Anna Maria Island will participate again next year! The released turtles can be tracked online.