There is a new non-profit in Key West with a mission to gather data and protect the sea turtle population. Club President Ralph Capone decided the Southernmost City needed its own conservation group, The Key West Sea Turtle Club, separate from Save-A-Turtle to protect the creatures’ delicate hatchlings.
“It’s too far to drive to Marathon for meetings, so we made our own non-profit in Key West,” Capone said.
The club took part in supporting The Turtle Hospital release of “Tiny,” the 300-pound loggerhead turtle recently behind Salute on Higgs Beach. Tiny suffered a boat strike, is approximately 50 plus years old and has the largest head of any sea turtle that has checked into the Turtle Hospital in 29 years.
The new club used Facebook and social media to help get the word out about the Key West release, and children and nature enthusiasts totaling about 300 people witnessed the brilliant sea creature returning to the sea.
The Turtle Hospital has been working with Save-A-Turtle for 29 years, back when people were still making turtle steak and soup. Turtle Hospital Director Richie Moretti is excited to see a new club spring up in Key West.
“The club is important in Key West because the city rakes the beaches. We need people to get up early in the morning and look for nests,” he said. “After meeting members of the new club last weekend, I was pleased to see how enthusiastic they were.”
Prior to releasing the Loggerhead on Sunday, Moretti released a loggerhead in Marathon on Saturday. A claw from the turtle scratched Moretti on his hand pretty badly but he didn’t miss the release in Key West. Protecting the turtle population is crucial, Moretti said, because they do not reach sexual maturity until 25 years of age; plus only 1 out of 100 eggs makes it to adulthood. For more information about joining the Key West Sea Turtle Club, friend them on Facebook. The public is also encouraged to report sightings of injured turtles to The Turtle Hospital at 305-743-2552.
(Turtle nesting is from April-Sept.)
1. Clear beaches and water of plastic and other litter, even if it’s not yours; sea turtles often confuse plastic for food.
2. Females like their nesting beaches dark and quiet; avoid flash pictures, strong flashlights, fires, loud noises, vehicles and even light-colored clothing.
3. Hire local guides; they will best know where and how to spot them and prevent stress to them once found.
4. Do not feed wildlife. It can make them sick and more vulnerable to harm from people.
5. When boating in the ocean, slow down when wildlife is present and avoid anchoring in sensitive areas — reefs and sea grass beds.
6. Choose to eat local and sustainable seafood caught with environmentally friendly fishing gear.
7. Maintain a respectful distance in the water and on nesting beaches.
8. Reduce your carbon footprint while on vacation. Climate change affects ocean wildlife by altering their habitat and affecting their food sources.