BREVARD COUNTY — Each summer, a number of sea turtles migrate to our beautiful beaches, and oftentimes many beachgoers can see them nesting in the late hours of the day.
At the end of July, the Sea Turtle Conservancy will once again host “Tour de Turtles,” an exciting three-month migratory race that educates the public about sea turtles.
Events kick off on Saturday, July 26, from 6-8 p.m. with a celebration featuring hors d’oeuvres, refreshments, live music, raffle and silent auction to benefit the sea turtle conservation and habitat protection within the county.
Tickets to the Tour de Turtle kickoff party cost $30 per individual in advance, or $45 at the event. However, event organizers expect to sell out of tickets before then.
The following morning, a sea turtle release is scheduled from 7:30-9:30 a.m., which is free and open to the public to attend.
Both events are to take place at Barrier Island Center, 8385 S. Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach.
“The main goal is to see where all these different species of turtles are swimming,” said Lexie Beach, Communications Coordinator for Sea Turtle Conservancy. “We’ll find out which areas they’re migrating to and where their foraging grounds are,. Through that, we can find out what their feeding habits are and which areas need to be designated for habitat protection.”
Now in its 12th year, the Tour de Turtles migratory race will feature 18 sea turtles: Leatherbacks, Green turtles, Loggerheads and Hawksbills.
Two sea turtles will be released from the turtle hospital, one rehabilitated and one juvenile Green turtle.
The public can track these turtles online by visiting the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s website. Each turtle released will have a satellite transmitter glued to their shells using a marine-grade epoxy. The glue typically holds on for two years and it has not been found to disturb sea turtle mating or migration.
Although the race is scheduled for three months, Sea Turtle Conservancy continues to track each turtle for up to a year.
“Usually sea turtles return to the same nesting place every other year,” Ms. Beach said. “We definitely have a lot of research to support that now. We’ve had so many of our turtles come back and nest again, almost in exactly the same spot they were released from.”
Other participating locations for turtle releases include Anna Maria Island, the Florida Keys, and Costa Rica.
This summer will be the ideal time for beachgoers to see a turtle nesting, as Ms. Beach reported it might possibly be a record-breaking year for sea turtle nesting.
“It’s going great. It’s too early to say if it’s record-breaking, but I think we’re definitely going to see some records broken,” Ms. Beach said. “We’re having a great year with Loggerheads so far, and Green turtle nesting has just started.”
Other states such as Georgia and the Carolinas have reported seeing high numbers of nesting sea turtles this summer as well, according to Ms. Beach. She added that sea turtles have high and low nesting years; and that while Green turtles had a low year last summer, officials expected to see an increase in nesting Greens this year.
Sea Turtle Conservancy uses Tour de Turtles as an opportunity to educate the public about threats sea turtles are facing, such as climate change, artificial lighting, poaching and marine debris.
During the sea turtle release on July 27, attendees will have the opportunity to ask officials questions, and for some, see a sea turtle up close for the first time.
“Just seeing it go back to the ocean is a pretty magical moment,” Ms. Beach said. “It’s really inspiring and we try to reach a lot of families and kids as well. It’s a great educational moment. We love to hear kids get so excited to see the turtles and tell their friends about how cool turtles are.”
For more information, visit www.conserveturtles.org.