Fishing piers are home to an elevated number of interactions between sea turtles and recreational anglers. To mitigate the effects of incidental capture and entanglements, in 2013 we implemented the Responsible Pier Initiative (RPI) on the Juno Beach Pier. The Initiative is designed to work collaboratively with anglers and provide them with the tools and training necessary to respond appropriately in the event a sea turtle becomes accidentally hooked or entangled on a fishing pier.

In the last four years, we have partnered with 24 organizations, municipal and other NGOs, to expand the program to 53 fishing piers across Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Puerto Rico. The RPI is now responsible for more than 300 successful sea turtle rescues and the removal of over 4,900 lbs. of marine debris.
RPI_4-Year_Page_1

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 1.07.57 PM

Yesterday, as I was passing by the center’s classrooms, I noticed some of our summer campers lining up beside projects they had worked on so, I walked over to have a closer look. There were posters and dioramas and sea turtle models – all made from recycled materials. They called it their ‘Sea Turtle Conference,’ a display of work to showcase to parents eager to hear about their day at LMC’s Jr. Marine Biologist camp.

I began to ask a few of the kids to tell me about their projects and was immediately met by energetic explanations of each tiny detail depicted in their work. Many showed beaches littered with trash. Some had turtles that had swallowed fishing hooks or become entangled in monofilament. A few had images of buildings with sea-turtle-safe red lights.

Each camper gave me a long list of things I could do to better protect sea turtles. They were determined to pass what they had learned in camp along to me – and anyone else who stopped to listen. The pride they took in their new mission to conserve the natural environment is the driving force for our Education Department and it is enough to make all of us want to work harder.

The Friday afternoon Sea Turtle Conference is now one of my favorite parts of LMC. Can’t wait to see what they will teach us next week.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July! While we all look forward to holiday BBQs, beach days, and colorful fireworks displays, the inevitable truth is that all of these celebrations tend to leave trash behind. This is especially important on Independence Day as it falls at the height of sea turtle nesting season on our densely nested beaches.

This morning, we gathered a group of volunteers to do some damage control and learn a bit more about the types of debris we could find.

In less than one hour, on less than a one-mile stretch of beach, we collected:

  • 150 fireworks
  • 142 plastic bags
  • 141 cigarette butts
  • 126 food wrappers
  • 14 glass bottles, 11 plastic bottles, 45 plastic bottle caps
  • and many other items

As we walked along the beach, others saw what we were doing and picked up pieces of trash to add to our bags. For me, that is always the most inspiring part. We can all celebrate together, but it is also our responsibility to protect our nation’s species and spaces – together.

We hope tonight, the beach is a bit better suited for the female turtles who will lay their nests, the hatchlings who will take their first swim in the sea, and all other animals with whom we share our home.

Last week we headed to the Caribbean to implement the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) across the main island of Puerto Rico and on the island of Vieques. We worked with our Responsible Pier Initiative partners at Black Beard Sports and Ticatove to install cigarette ash receptacles, reinstall Sea Turtle Safe Project SHIELD signs at popular dive spots and even made time for an underwater cleanup. Trip highlights are below.

Day 1: Upon arriving in San Juan, we grabbed lunch and headed northeast to Ceiba.

Day 2: After a successful first day, we began the next day in the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico  – Viejo (Old) San Juan.

Day 3: We packed up our tools and supplies and headed to the San Juan International Airport for an 11 a.m. flight to the nearby island of Vieques. We’ve been working in Puerto Rico for the past two years. Based on our experiences, if something is going to go wrong on a trip, it’s going to happen in San Juan (we call it the San Juan curse). However, everything to this point was going as planned – we accomplished all that we set out to do and were ahead of schedule.

We boarded our flight for the quick 20-minute ride to Vieques and were on our way.

After being in the air for nearly 40 minutes, we began our descent, but to our surprise, we were not landing in Vieques! It was not until we were on the ground, doors open, that the captain told us we had to turn around and head back to San Juan due to bad weather. The San Juan curse got us again! So we headed back to the airport and waited for the weather to clear up. Less than an hour later, we were on our way back to Vieques.

Day 1: We began our time in Vieques by installing cigarette ash receptacles at 9 pavilions at Playa Caracas – one of the locals’ favorite beaches. We were joined by Cristina of Black Beard Sports and Ticatove.

Next we headed to Mosquito Pier. We last visited Mosquito Pier in December 2015 when we installed Project SHIELD signs at the popular dive location. Cristina informed us that the fence where we hung the signs was falling down and we may need to find a new location. We checked out the site and agreed that the signs needed to be relocated.

After deciding that our only option would be to build our own posts, we headed off to the local hardware store.

Mosquito Pier is the most popular dive and snorkel site on the island of Vieques. Each day, local shops bring divers and snorkeler of all levels to enjoy the diverse marine ecosystems found in the area, including sea turtles, corals, tropical fish and even the occasional dolphin. By installing signs near the entry point, we have the potential to spread environmental education and conservation best practices to thousands of visitors each year.

We finished up the day by installing cigarette ash receptacles in popular fishing locations on Mosquito Pier.

Mosquito Pier

Cigarette ash receptacle installed on Mosquito Pier.

Day 2: We woke up early to join Cristina at Mosquito Pier for an underwater cleanup.

We spent the rest of the day coordinating future projects and preparing for our early flight back to Florida the next day.

VAL Flight

Leaving Vieques

Hasta luego, Vieques!

Sorting_June Analaysis

This data represents all debris collected through LMC sponsored coastal cleanup events in Palm Beach County from January 1 – June 20, 2017.

Following each beach and underwater cleanup, the Center’s sorting team, comprised of staff, volunteers, and interns weighs all debris and empties it onto a tarp. The trash is sorted into twenty specific categories, counted, and entered into our database.

In the time period of January 1 – June 20, 2017, the team sorted debris from sixty-one cleanup events, totally 55,100 individual pieces of trash.

We had a very successful road trip through Florida to visit many of our partners and install cigarette receptacles on their piers.  A few highlights of the trip are below!

Earlier this year, Loggerhead Marinelife Center was named a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grant recipient by Keep American Beautiful.  The grant has allowed us to purchase cigarette receptacles for interested Responsible Pier Initiative partners.  We immediately began planning our road trip and packing our tools.

Implementation began yesterday on our very own Juno Beach Pier.  In the next eight days, we will visit 14 piers, travel a total of 1,459 miles, and install 47 cigarette receptacles.  We will conduct a preliminary litter survey on each pier and the surrounding beaches, counting the cigarette butts we find along the way.  Soon, cigarette receptacles will make their way to Texas, Virginia, and Puerto Rico as well.

More photos of our travels are coming soon!

Summer is definitely upon us in South Florida.  The temperatures are rising, the turtles are returning to nest, and our summer interns are here!  This term, we are lucky to have four interns from all over the country working for the Conservation Department.

Steph is our new Conservation Intern.  She will be working with the team to implement conservation measures on fishing piers, recycle monofilament fishing line collected in Palm Beach County, sort through hundreds of pounds of debris removed from beach and underwater cleanups, and develop a new conservation project of her own.

Sophia, Audrey, and Taylor are our Data Collection Interns. They will be speaking with recreational boaters in the area to gather baseline data for a project we’ll launch next summer.

Below, each Intern introduces him/herself.  If you see them around campus or around town, please stop to say hello!

My name is Stephanie and I am a Marine Science major at Florida Gulf Coast University, minoring in Geology.  I am set to graduate in the fall and would love to continue my education with graduate school, focusing on conservation and environmental studies.  Originally, I am from Illinois and have always had a passion for the ocean and the marine creatures in it.  This led me to move down to Florida three years ago to follow my dream of assisting in conservation efforts.  In my free time, you will either find me at the beach, SCUBA diving, kayaking, cuddling with my dogs, fishing, or eating pizza!  I am very excited to spend my summer at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, gaining more hands-on experience and being a part of an amazing organization.

Hello! My name is Sophia. I was born and raised right outside of Boston, Massachusetts and I am going to be a junior at Roger Williams University where I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology and minoring in Latin. I love spending time outdoors, especially by the ocean, and I love SCUBA diving. I’m excited to be down in Florida this summer to be a part of the Conservation Team, learning about data collection and all about sea turtles!  

I’m Audrey. I’m a rising sophomore and Biology major at the University of Texas. Despite my Texas home, I grew up just outside Orlando.  In my free time, I enjoy frequenting parks with my dog, playing volleyball, and practicing yoga. 

My name is Taylor.  I’m 23 years old from Jupiter, Florida. I am a senior majoring in Maritime Studies at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. In my free time, I enjoy working out and fishing as much as I can.

In response to the increase in plastic pollution in coastal zones and ocean gyres, Surfrider Foundation’s Palm Beach County Chapter and Loggerhead Marinelife Center have partnered to bring the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program to Palm Beach County.

“The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program is designed to work with local restaurants and cafés to institute self-regulated ocean-friendly policies,” said Tommy Cutt, LMC’s Chief Conservation Officer. “Through educational workshops on marine conservation and ocean-friendly practices, along with recognition through this certification program, we hope to significantly reduce disposable waste in our oceans and on local beaches.”

“The ocean is turning into a plastic soup,” said Terry Hamilton, Chair of Surfrider Foundation’s Palm Beach County Chapter. “Our local beach cleanups routinely collect huge amounts of plastic straws, foam takeout containers, and plastic utensils. The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program has successfully partnered with businesses across the country, from Hawaii to California to South Carolina, and we’re thrilled to bring the program to Palm Beach County.”

Restaurants participating in the OFR program must abide by the following criteria:
1. Discontinue offering expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam).
2. Follow proper recycling practices.
3. Only offer reusable tableware for onsite dining and provide takeout utensils only upon request.
4. Eliminate the use of plastic bags.

They must also abide by at least three of the following criteria:
5. Provide plastic straws only upon request.
6. Eliminate the sale of beverages in plastic bottles.
7. Offer discounts to customers with reusable cups, mugs, bags, etc.
8. Regularly offer vegetarian/vegan food options. All seafood must be a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” as defined by Seafood Watch.
9. Use water conservation appliances such as low-flow faucets and toilets.
10. Use energy efficient devices such as LED lighting.

Establishments that implement all ten criteria are recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurant. LMC’s own Tortuga Café was the first to participate when plastic bottles were eliminated from campus in April 2017.

Palm Beach County restaurant owners and managers interested in participating can contact Tommy at tcutt@marinelife.org.

At the beginning of this year, we began carefully sorting all of the pollution removed from the beach during our cleanup events so that we could track trends in the trash over time.

As of today, we have sorted 24 cleanups in 2017.  Below is a glimpse at what we are finding:

  • Over 41,000 individual items have been removed
  • 73% of the garbage is plastic
  • An average of 21 pieces of plastic are removed for every minute of cleaning the beach
  • We have removed 521 plastic bottles and 5,032 plastic bottle caps

Our most important goal is gaining knowledge so that we can prevent the garbage from being in the ocean in the first place; however, we are also learning more about steps we can take to keep trash out of landfills in the meantime.

This week, we signed up to take part in TerraCycle’s Beach Plastic Cleanup Program.  TerraCycle, founded in 2001, operates in 21 countries to make typically non-recyclable waste recyclable.  They launched their Beach Plastic Cleanup Program in collaboration with Procter & Gamble earlier this year and have already collected more than 25,000 lbs. of waste from European beaches.

Now, after we have sorted our debris, we can box up the rigid plastics and send them to TerraCycle where they will be melted down into pellets and repurposed into Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles.

On campus, we have also eliminated all single-use plastic beverage bottles!  Earth Day marked the first day of Boxed Water sales in our Tortuga Café and Gift Store.  The recyclable cardboard cartons are made using paper harvested from a well-managed forest where new trees are continuously planted.  Boxed Water, an environmentally conscious company, donates 1% of their total annual revenue to the National Forest Foundation’s reforestation efforts.  The boxes still include a plastic cap so we are employing TerraCycle once again to repurpose the caps back into new plastic materials.

Together, these initiatives give us the ability to both minimize our need for plastics and put thousands of pieces of plastic back into the production circle this year, reducing the demand to manufacture more.  The plastic pollution problem is not going to be an easy one to solve but we are grateful for companies that are working to make positive changes that will ultimately decrease the amount of garbage in the ocean.