Sea turtle efforts see results along local coastlines

By Phil Sunkel |

Diana Justice is seeing results.

For the last 10 years she has been protecting sea turtle nests along the St. Augustine Beach. Every morning she wakes up and joins a small group of dedicated volunteers to patrol the beaches from Anastasia State Park to Crescent Beach looking for sea turtle nests.

“I’ve been doing this for close to 10 years now and the best part is we are starting to see results from the environmental stuff,” said Justice, the St. Augustine Beach Marine Turtle permit holder. “We’re seeing more turtles nesting and they’re probably from the nests in the ’70s that we preserved and started keeping and taking care of.”

“Sea Turtles reach sexual maturity around 25 or 30 years,” said Tara Dodson, the St. Johns County environmental coordinator. “And you know 25 or 30 years ago is when the endangered species act went into affect. So in theory we should be seeing more nesting.”

In the past three years St. Johns County has seen a surge in sea turtle nests.

“In 2010 we had 840-something and then in 2011 we had 600-something and now we’re at 675,” Said Dodson. “So to go from 275 to those record numbers three years in a row is exciting.”

However, this does not mean that Dodson doesn’t have any worries.

“I’m worried about the people who don’t take the time to understand that they can have a negative or positive impact,” Said Dodson. “That’s my biggest goal, to educate people and help them understand why it is so important to be stewards of the coast.”

In her off time Dodson volunteers with Keepers of the Coast, a volunteer organization in St. Johns County which helps education the community about our beaches.

“Keepers of the Coast was created with members of the community,” Said Dodson, who is one of the founding members and one of the six board members. “We created Keepers to basically educate the community on how to prevent marine debris, how to be better stewards of the beaches and the ocean and learn about the wild life that we share out beaches with.”

“It’s important to protect the coast because it’s our beach. You know we don’t want to go to a beach that’s dirty or has cigarette butts all over it,” said Sydney Linbald, a volunteer with Keepers of the Coast. “It’s also important that we maintain a clean coast for generations to come.”

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