For Immediate Release, May 13, 2021
Contact: Richard WhiteCloud
Phone: (954) 770-2344 / (954) 404-0025
FWC Guts Florida’s Largest Sea Turtle Rescue Organization
Turtles Will Die as a Result!
On April 28, 2021, authorities from FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) notified S.T.O.P. (Sea Turtle Oversight Protection) that they would not be renewing 3 of 5 rescue permits that it had historically issued for the purpose of conducting nighttime hatchling rescue operations. This decision reduces staffing by 60%.
Without prior notice and just as the 2021 sea turtle nesting season commences, FWC has effectively gutted S.T.O.P. by reducing the number of permits to just 2, thereby reducing patrollers from 121 to 48. Additionally, FWC wants to phase out ALL night time patrols over the next several years. This will result in a catastrophic loss of the endangered species.
S.T.O.P. has been the largest permit holder in the state, operating under FWC guidelines since 2007 and rescuing nearly 250,000 hatchlings to date. In 2019, S.T.O.P. 's 121 trained volunteers spent thousands of hours patrolling approximately 18 miles of beach from dusk till dawn, rescuing 29,650 hatchlings from certain death due to disorientation from artificial light pollution. While there have historically been 121 volunteers on the permit, logistically, on average there are only around 20 volunteers on the beach each night- spread out over 18 miles of coastline.
Even more egregious, FWC has taken this action without announcing alternative measures to ensure the survival of these endangered species. While lighting ordinances have been adopted by all coastal municipalities in the County, compliance is inconsistent and enforcement is almost non-existent. Despite S.T.O.P. 's 14 years of documenting offending hotels, condos, houses, restaurants, and shops, FWC has failed to pressure municipalities to enforce existing lighting codes. Without sufficient S.T.O.P. staff monitoring the thousands of nests at night, tens of thousands of hatchlings will follow the artificial lights and crawl into roadways, storm drains and parking lots- dying, just minutes after being born. Hatchlings that don’t have road access will crawl aimlessly on the beach until they dehydrate and die.
FWC has further impacted S.T.O.P. 's ability to continue their mission by reducing the duration of the educational permits used to conduct “Turtle Treks of Terramar” educational programs from 4 months to 2 months. This leaves fewer opportunities to educate and inspire the general public to conserve these endangered animals. Additionally, the Treks have been a source of funding the rescue operations; a further blow to the organization.
For detailed information and documentation recorded by S.T.O.P. rescue volunteers, visit http://www.seaturtleop.com/index.php/about/statistics
Take action by signing our petition: https://www.change.org/SaveBabySeaTurtles
About Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (S.T.O.P.)
S.T.O.P. is a local, grass-roots 501(c)3 nonprofit sea turtle conservation organization and the first hatchling rescue in Broward County. Founded in 2007 by Richard, Siouxzen and Teakahla WhiteCloud to reduce hatchling mortality due to artificial light pollution. Our mission is to protect and rescue sea turtles and preserve their critical habitats, while remaining free of political influence for the benefit of conservation.
Trained volunteers work tirelessly to rescue, recover and release hatchlings that could not find the ocean due to artificial lighting. Our efforts have reduced the hatchling mortality rate by almost 50% in Broward County. To date, we have saved nearly 250,000 hatchlings that were disoriented to artificial lights and would have died without our presence. We aim to provide a solution to a complex problem: to document disorientation events to the local and state officials and to create awareness through education, in an effort to balance the scales and give the hatchlings a chance to begin their life. To learn more about what we do and how you can help, please visit www.seaturtleop.com.