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Sea Turtle Nest Locator Program

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The City of Fort Lauderdale is very proactive when it comes to protecting and overseeing sea turtle nesting on our beach and we have formed strategic partnerships to help increase the life expectancy of sea turtles. One of the mostnest01 successful partnerships the City has formed is working with Broward County to identify sea turtle nests through the Sea Turtle Nest Locator Program. This program allows both Broward County and the City to "mark" nests to ensure they can be properly reestablished if necessary. Here's how the program works.

Broward County contracted sea turtle surveyors inspect the beach daily before sunrise, looking for "paddle marks" left behind by nesting sea turtles' flippers. The paddle marks in the sand indicate that a sea turtle likely nested in the area.

When new nests are discovered, the surveyors block off the area and mark it with stakes and brightly colored tape to clearly identify them. Blocking off the nests serves as a warning to the public to stay out of the nesting areas and not disturb them for any reason. It also allows City staff to mechanically clean the beach with tractors and surf rakes while still protecting the nests.

After blocking off the sea turtle nests, the next important step involves "mapping" them. To do this, the sea turtle surveyors take and log coordinates for every new nest using mapping grade sub-meter Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment. This equipment offers more detailed, accurate information about the locations of the nests to within three feet of the nest. To more clearly demonstrate this technology and its usefulness, think of this process as trying to get somewhere using a GPS when you only have a zip code versus having the exact address. Using most commercial GPS equipment, such as handheld, mobile device, or car units, would be equivalent to finding a location by zip code only. But, using the sub-meter GPS equipment, County and City staff can locate, mark, or reestablish sea turtle nests with greater confidence, ease, and accuracy because they were able to log a good "address" for where the nests are or should be.

nest02Once sea turtle surveyors mark the nests, City staff monitors them regularly to make sure they are secure. City staff also takes coordinates of the nests using the sub-meter GPS equipment to ensure location accuracy and to have a back up of the data.

The marking and logging of sea turtles nest coordinates is important for a variety of reasons. The most important reason is that should there be a tropical storm, hurricane, or other event that washes away or removes nest markers, the nests can quickly and easily be located and blocked using the GPS coordinates. In addition, by clearly identifying thes nests, the City is able to mechanically clean an expanded area of the beach it was previously not permitted to clean.

Through the Sea Turtle Nest Locator Program, which is supported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the City is able to continue offering one of the cleanest, most beautiful beaches in the world while protecting and providing great hope for future populations of sea turtles.

Nests in 2012

In 2012, the City of Fort Lauderdale experienced a record season for sea turtle nests on the City’s beach. From Fort Lauderdale Beach Park to Oakland Park Boulevard, the City monitored data for 540 turtle nests, which represents a 42 percent increase from 2011. In addition, Table 1 below shows that for the past four years there has been a steady increase in sea turtles nests located on the City’s beach. These statistics offer hope that the status of these endangered marine mammals is improving.

Number of sea turtle nests on Fort Lauderdale Beach 2009 to 2012

2009

2010

2011

2012

281

349

381

540

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