GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – The first day of May signals the official start of sea turtle nesting season in Florida. Like the massive amphibious landing on D-Day, each year thousands of sea turtles storm Florida’s sandy nesting beaches in the battle for survival.

Sea turtle conservation groups, researchers and coastal counties all play important roles in helping sea turtles survive. Through the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is funded entirely by sales of the sea turtle specialty license plate, groups around Florida today are receiving financial reinforcements in the form of grants supporting education, conservation and research projects benefiting Florida sea turtles.

This year grants totaling more than $360,000 were awarded to 29 different organizations and local governments. The nonprofit Caribbean Conservation Corporation, which administers the Sea Turtle Grants Program, hopes the projects chosen for support this year give sea turtles a better chance at survival.

Launched in 1996, the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate raises money to support the Sea Turtle Grants Program. Funding is awarded through a competitive application process to local governments, educational institutions and Florida-based nonprofit groups for projects involving research, education and conservation benefiting Florida sea turtles.

“People often ask me whether money from the sea turtle specialty plate actually goes toward sea turtle conservation,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. “In the case of the sea turtle specialty plate, every dime supports sea turtle conservation in Florida. The turtle tag really is a phenomenal success, and it is supporting great things on behalf of sea turtles.”

The sea turtle plate is one of the top five selling specialty tags in Florida, having sold almost 80,000 plates in 2007.

“It’s rewarding to know that so many people share our concern for Florida’s sea turtles,” said Godfrey. “Florida beaches host over 90% of all the sea turtle nesting in the United States. What we do in this state has a dramatic impact on sea turtle populations around the world. By purchasing the turtle tag, Floridians are voluntarily funding important programs to save these amazing creatures.”

To learn more about the Sea Turtle Grants Program and the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate, please visit www.helpingseaturtles.org.

The following are just a few of the organizations receiving grants in 2008: St. Lucie County 4-H Foundation, University of South Florida, Sarasota County, Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Mote Marine Laboratory, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of Miami, and The Conservancy of Southwest Florida.