Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles (FOSWST)

Newsletter - June 2024

New Volunteer Beach Ambassador (VBA) TRAINING


Join FOSWST Volunteer Beach Ambassadors' (VBA) community! The VBAs, when wearing their T-shirt, interact with the public in a positive and friendly way, while they're on the beach, stationed at beach accesses, or even while they're out around town.


This meeting will include a Presentation, Guest Speakers, a T-shirt & Name Tag, Trifold Card, & Related Info. We have lined up speakers from the Walton County Fire District (WCFD) to talk about Beach Operations & Safely and from Code Compliance that will address Codes Please register for one of the NEW VBA training sessions listed below.



GREAT NEWS for RETURNING VBAs


If you attended Volunteer Beach Ambassador (VBA) Training in 2022 and 2023, we now have digital content for you to review instead of attending a training session. However, you still must register for one of the VBA renewal sessions listed below to pick up your new T-shirt, a digital informational packet, an updated name tag, and VBA's links.


We look forward to seeing you!

To Register, Select a Date

PLEASE Click the + Sign and indicate the number attending and Click > Continue

VBA RENEWAL DATES


Saturday, June 8th, 10:00-10:30 AM


Saturday, June 15th, 10:00-10:30 AM


NEW VBA TRAINING DATES


Saturday, June 8th, 9:30-10:30 AM


Saturday, June 15th, 9:30-10:30 AM


FOSWST Species Spotlight

In this species spotlight, we're doing a deep dive on the Leatherback Sea Turtle! We will explore their unique characteristics in comparison to other sea turtle species as well as their habitat and behavior.

A Closer Look at the Leatherback


Leatherback sea turtles, also known as Dermochelys coriacea, are the largest of all sea turtles, and their appetites match their impressive size. They can weigh up to 2,000 lbs. and measure over 8 feet, "which, according to some researchers, makes it the world’s heaviest reptile." They are the only species of sea turtle that does not have a hard shell. They get their name from the texture of their shell, which feels like leather. Their soft shell is an adaptation that allows them to dive deeper than a submarine and can stay down for up to 85 minutes before coming up for air.


Quick Facts about Leatherback Sea Turtles:


Habitat: Leatherback Sea Turtles are found in the Deep Seas of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They occupy U.S. waters in the Northwest Atlantic, West Pacific, and East Pacific. Within the United States, the majority of nesting occurs in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are happy to say that they also swim in the Gulf of Mexico and have nested on the Northwest Panhandle beaches during our Nesting Season, May 1-October 31.


Reproduction: The Leatherback female will lay approximately 50-90 very large eggs that are about

the size of a tennis ball. Female leatherbacks nest every 2-4 years and lay 4-7 clutches of eggs per season, which means leatherbacks lay an average of 350 eggs in a nesting season! Their nest’s incubation period is approximately 70-80 days long. Unlike other sea turtles, Leatherback females may change nesting beaches, though they tend to stay in the same region


Diet: Their diet consists mainly of jellyfish. Leatherbacks dive deep in search of jellyfish, some of which are as big as a car! The Lion’s Mane is the largest jelly, also known as the giant jellyfish and can weigh up to 200 pounds. Leatherback sea turtles have quite an appetite for jellyfish! On average, they can consume about 73% of their body weight in jellyfish each day1To put that into perspective, a 1,000-pound leatherback could eat approximately 730 pounds of jellyfish daily2. Leatherbacks don’t have to worry about being stung because they don’t have sensitive skin like we do. Another adaptation they have is specialized notches in their top jaw that allows them to catch jellies easier; there is no escaping a Leatherback's hooks.

 

Sea Turtles Ecosystem:

These magnificent creatures rely on these gelatinous delicacies to fuel their incredible journeys across the oceans. By feasting on jellyfish, leatherbacks not only satisfy their appetites but also help maintain the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem. So, the next time you spot a Leatherback Sea Turtle gracefully gliding through the waves, remember the importance of their unique diet and the role they play in our vast oceanic world.


Resources: Sea Turtles Conservancy, National Geographic, Turtle Biography, SWOT (State of the World's Sea Turtles), and NOAA

The Role of Our Sea Turtles

Ongoing Threats to our Sea Turtles

Human activities such as coastal development, pollution, and fishing practices pose significant threats to all Sea Turtles species. Many Sea Turtles in our area who are rehabilitated and released have been foul hooked near fishing piers, and many are found to have consumed trash which they often mistake as food. If you hook a Sea Turtle, remember to Never Cut your Fishing Line!


To report a distressed Sea Turtle CALL (SWTW) Hotline: 850-865-4503


Conservation Efforts for Sea Turtles

Conservation organizations around the world are working tirelessly to protect Sea Turtles and their habitats. Through research, education, and advocacy, Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles, and many other organizations aim to raise awareness about the threats facing these sea turtles and implement measures to ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy.


How Can You Help Protect Sea Turtles?

You can start by leaving nothing but footprints on the beach and by minimizing plastic pollution to help preserve marine ecosystems. Spread the word to keep our beaches #CleanDarkFlat! You can also support local conservation efforts and organizations dedicated to Sea Turtle protection. Join FOSWST today in our efforts to raise awareness through education in our schools and community.


With this information, we hope you can now more easily spot these marine creatures and understand how to respond if you encounter one.


Remember to always observe marine creatures from a safe distance! Stay safe, enjoy the beach, and remember to help keep our beaches #CleanDarkFlat this Summer!


REMINDERS

VBAs are no longer allowed to use their Blue whistles on the beach.

We're excited to see our VBA's gear up to hit the beaches for the 2024 season! With beach walking, educational & community events on the calendar it's so important to our organization for all volunteers to please keep track of all of your VBA hours!

CLICK HERE TO ENTER YOUR VBA HOURS


THE 2024 TURTLE SEASON IS HERE! WE MUST CONTINUE TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO KEEP OUR BEACHES #CleanDarkFlat


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Please send your comments and photos of VBAs in action to vba@foswst.com. We would love to hear from you!

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