Project Title: Removal of anthropogenic debris to save sea turtles and improve their foraging habitats in Florida
Project Manager: Karen A. Bjorndal
Organization: University of Florida - Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research (Research and Educational Institute)
Grant Amount: $30,150.00
Summary: A major threat to sea turtle populations in Florida is the prevalence of anthropogenic debris, particularly fishery-based, in neritic waters of Florida. This debris poses three hazards to sea turtles: entanglement in debris, ingestion of debris, and degradation of foraging habitat caused by debris. The first two hazards can result in injury or death; the third hazard can decrease productivity (body growth and reproduction) by limiting nutrient intake. Although this debris comes from many sources, one of the most dangerous types is abandoned or lost fishing gear, such as monofilament fishing line, fishing nets, lobster/crab traps, and buoy ropes. Our project will target abandoned/lost derelict fishery-based debris in neritic waters of Florida. We will build on our experiences and lessons learned in the successful development and implementation of our Reclaim Our Coasts (ROC) Program. During the past two years, the ROC Program has focused on the removal of large derelict obstacles and barriers to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings in Florida. We are now expanding our removal efforts to neritic waters to decrease the threat of entanglement and ingestion of debris by sea turtles and improve marine habitats. Underwater removals will have new and different challenges in terms of equipment and removal techniques; however, our experience with nesting beach removals provides a good foundation to expand obstacle and debris removal efforts into neritic habitats.