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Okaloosa County Hosts Sea Turtle Conservation and Community Sustainability Workshop

Okaloosa County
Baby Green Sea Turtle

The Okaloosa County Coastal Resource team is collaborating with Coastal Connections to host a Sea Turtle Conservation and Community Sustainability Workshop on Tuesday.

Kendra Cope is the founder of Coastal Connections, a 501 (c)( 3) nonprofit that focuses on the management of coastal protected species as well as single-use plastic and debris reduction initiatives. Cope is hopeful that the workshop will be a success.

“It's going to be a great day of discussion, ideas, information, and education just swirling around that room and we are really excited for it. Almost a hundred people are coming, and the audience will be made of the general public, research scientists, and marine turtle permit holders.”

The two-part workshop will focus on sea turtle conservation in the first half, and community sustainability practices, like recycling, in the second half. The goal of the workshop is to educate the public about best practices, and also to coordinate and discuss the efforts of sea turtle permit holders and local conservation organizations.

“The first part of that workshop is focused on bringing all of the local sea turtle permit holders together. Those are the groups permitted by the state of Florida to put on or participate in permitted sea turtle related activities. Those could be the nesting surveys on the beaches up in the Panhandle, or stranding response which means they are helping to rescue or document sick, injured, or dead turtles.”

The workshop welcomes the public and is ideal for anyone looking to become involved in local conservation efforts. Cope wants the community to get engaged and stick to what works: waste reduction and trash pickup on our beaches.

“We also want to bring in members of the public who want to learn more about sea turtle conservation and protection efforts happening within that area,” Cope said. “Think about picking up your trash, picking stuff up off the beaches and leaving them as natural as possible, and probably more beautiful than the way that you found them.”

Hatched Green Sea Turtle Nest
Okaloosa County
Hatched Green Sea Turtle Nest

Sea turtles, whose nesting season runs from March 1 to Oct. 31, require a shoreline free from trash and other obstacles in order to avoid entrapment, injury, and disorientation during nesting and hatching.

“This is what provides a more pristine, clean, and natural area for the sea turtles to come up and reproduce during the summer season. That's one of the most critical things: allowing the beach to be that reproductive space and sharing it cooperatively with the animals and wildlife around us. We can all enjoy it together.”

According to Cope, the shores and waters of the Gulf Coast provide critical habitat for a variety of sea turtle species.

“Locally you all provide a beautiful nesting beach for both loggerheads and occasionally a green turtle. There have also been notes of Kemp’s Ridley turtles. The primary species that uses the beach for reproduction are going to be the loggerhead turtles. However, what is really cool about your area is that the waters in the gulf are a wonderful home for Kemp’s Ridley which are the most endangered species found in the United States.”

Ensuring the next generation of sea turtles on the Gulf Coast is a collaborative effort by necessity, and this workshop hosted by the Okaloosa County and Coastal Connections is an important step in achieving community-wide turtle conservation goals.

“Come and learn as much as you can. You can only be a great advocate if you know what you are advocating for. We and the county want to be a resource for knowledge and to share as much as we know with the people visiting and living in this area.”

To find out more information or to attend the next workshop, contact coastalresources@destinfwb.com.

Workshop Details
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022
Location: Destin – Fort Walton Beach Convention Center (1250 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548)

Sea Turtle Conservation Workshop 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

  • Introduce the Okaloosa County Coastal Resource team as a resource for current and future sea turtle conservation efforts
  • Sea turtle conservation practices and outreach initiatives in northwest Florida
  • Discuss current stranding network, data collection, and beachfront lighting

Community Sustainability Workshop 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

  • Waste production, management, and recycling efforts in Okaloosa County
  • Current and future incentive programs and initiatives to reduce waste
  • Marine debris and beach baskets