To the Editor:
To call this season challenging would be an understatement. Of the six seasons the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association has been active on the island, 2018 will stand out with all the storms, predators, heat and hard work. Turtle predators thrived, and the red tide was relentless.
One blessing this season: We did not experience a major storm, as we have in the last few years. We had one early in the season, but it didn’t do much damage. Nests increased 15 percent this season despite the challenges, although 2017 was a light year, down 25 percent from the year before. The turtle nesting and hatching season is six months long, with volunteers covering 8 zones every morning. The coordination and commitment is significant. As of this writing, 735 nests were laid on our beach this season. With an average of 100 eggs to a nest, that means approximately 73,500 hatchlings left our shores.
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association wants to extend gratitude to our community and volunteers. We are thankful to live in an area that champions our efforts and takes such an active role in supporting our mission.
Foremost, our immense gratitude to Donna Larson, the permit holder for Gasparilla Island. Donna is committed, of seemingly unlimited energy, and a respected leader of Turtle Patrol. She did a fantastic job keeping everyone organized, trained and updated. Being the permit holder comes with a lot of responsibility, and it’s a long season. Donna puts her heart into it every day, and we are grateful!
To our group of dedicated volunteer patrollers, who tirelessly donate their time and energy during the six- month season, a heartfelt thank you. Without your assistance, we could not achieve our mission to protect and preserve sea turtles and their habitat along the nesting beaches of Gasparilla Island. In particular, we extend our gratitude to Ashley Coleman, Gary Larson, Nathan and Carol Forrester, Candy and Bill Sasser, James and Kris Tranz, Kathy McClure, Lisa Fultz, Denise and Eric Juergens, Martha Dehne, Ashley Hill, Joe Cavanaugh, Judy Kauk, Cathy Brown, Mary Kay Forrer, Becky Wellhouse, Bonnie Lichter, Cathy Brown, Laurie Patch, Lori and Frank Corrado, Gary and Cecilia Brown, Elaine Honeycutt, Marsha Welch, Connie Turpin, Natasha Smith, Marcia and Robert Greenwood, Linda and Randy Simmons, Jim Walter, Maria Leonardo and Michelle Capogrosso. It is no small effort to go out each morning into the hot, humid summer sun in support of turtle conservation. Your commitment is deeply appreciated.
We are also very grateful to those in our community who support our mission. The Woman’s Club funded our educational outreach materials, as they have for many years, which help residents and visitors understand their impact on our unique topography and how they can help sea turtles. The Johann Fust Library Foundation provided space for our Junior Sea Turtle Patrol program and to showcase our literature, which helps increase awareness throughout the community. Gulf to Bay Sotheby’s International Realty and other real estate companies on the Island distribute outreach materials in their rental properties. The kind folks at Whiddens Marina allow us to keep our supplies on their property, and Susan Erwin of the Boca Beacon provides updates to the community on our activities and promotes awareness of proper beach protocols during the season.
Our beautiful, wild and natural beaches make Gasparilla Island special, and as visitors to our island increase, it becomes even more important to preserve this unique part of our island. The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association is committed to keeping our beaches optimized for sea turtle nesting, and we are deeply appreciative of those in our community who support our mission.
Donations are welcome and can be mailed to Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association, PO Box 478, Boca Grande, FL 33921. You can follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/seaturtleawareness or learn more at our website, bocagrandeseaturtles.org.
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association Board of Directors (Grace Harvey, Maureen and Ched McConnell, Donna Larson, Sharon and Karl Knapp and Melissa Csank)