The Sea Turtle Conservancy celebrated the start of its 11th annual Tour de Turtles Marathon with a kick-off party last Saturday evening at the Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach to highlight the migration journey of sea turtles.
Along with a social mixer featuring hors d’oeuvres, refreshments and the rhythmic island sounds of 23 Treez, a silent auction was held offering items donated for the benefit of sea turtle conservation.
“It’s awesome. It never gets old [to] have fun events where you get to be social and have actual turtle work,” said Cori McWilliams, 14, a Vero Beach resident who has volunteered with STC since age 4.
Tour de Turtles follows sea turtle migration patterns from nesting beaches to foraging grounds using satellite transmitters attached to the turtles’ back (carapace). The transmitters neither hurt their shells nor restrict their movements and are designed to eventually fall off.
The turtles are tracked for three months as they ‘race’ to finish a turtle marathon, with the goal of swimming the furthest distance. The public can get involved by ‘adopting’ the turtles to raise awareness of the various sea turtle species and the human threats to their survival, such as water quality, plastic debris, light pollution, climate change, harvest for meat and egg consumption, commercial trawl and longline fisheries, illegal shell trade, invasive species predation, beach erosion, oil spills and tourism.
“It’s very impactful to see the rehabilitation process as well as the tracking process of the life of the turtle after its release,” said Alex Gonzales, marketing coordinator for Tarte Cosmetics. The company sponsored Turtlette, who, along with Bion, was released the following morning from the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
“We’re really excited to give back to the community as well as show our followers and consumers that we’re not only just a cosmetic brand,” she added. “We like to see the change every single day by recycling, picking up plastic, cleaning the ocean, and releasing sea turtles.”
There were also two loggerhead sea turtles – Trixie and Mrs. Potato Head – sponsored by Disney Parks Blog and released that Saturday morning from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Other releases in Florida took place in Anna Maria Island and Marathon Key, and elsewhere from Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba and Nevis. In all, there are four leatherback, four green, seven loggerhead and two hawksbill sea turtle marathoners.
For more information about sea turtle conservation, adopt a turtle or follow their migrations, visit tourdeturtles.org.
Article by: Anthea Manayon, correspondent