Ahead of the Tide and Partners in the News

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Sallie O’Hara: Vilano Beach gearing up for sea turtle nesting season

By Sallie O’Hara

“Sea Turtles Dig the Dark!” — that’s the message found on the bumpers of the turtle patrol roving vehicles parked in the North Shores Improvement Association garage bays.

The old firehouse facility on First Street and Meadow Avenue is also the satellite home to the St. Johns County Sheriff deputies who patrol the area. Scott Eastman, director of Eastman Environmental, oversees volunteers monitoring the turtle population’s well-being between April and October every year.

Eastman Environmental was founded in 2010 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and conserving coastal and marine habitats through research, education and community involvement initiatives. The group works with international programs to monitor environmental concerns. Its focus in St. Johns County is protecting sea turtles in Mickler’s Beach, Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Reserve, Guana River South, Vilano Beach and Crescent Beach. The group recently cleaned up the station and organized the stakes and prepped the vehicles — all ready for action.

In 2015, there were 73 recorded turtle nests in Vilano Beach, according to seaturtle.org. This was the most in the area since data collection began in 2009. About 95 percent of these nests survived, producing thousands of baby turtles ready to embark on their ocean adventures. In addition to sea turtle nesting beach surveys, the group also does sea turtle stranding and salvage, marine debris removal, and sea turtle in-water assessments.

Like Scott’s group, there are now more than 1 billion people every year raising awareness of environmental consciousness. All issues are highlighted during Earth Day on Friday, now in its 46th year. This observance, spearheaded by environmental activists back in 1970, unveils hazards of climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation, oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps and the impact of human populations depleting habitats for wildlife.

Scott recently shared a new project, titled “Ahead of the Tide,” a 10-part video series which highlights the effects of sea level rise and climate change through the stories and voices of local Floridians. Rising seas threaten sea turtle populations. This project was supported by organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Oceana, Florida Wildlife Federation, the Florida Climate Institute, The Sea to Shore Alliance, and several others. Go to aheadofthetide.org to learn more. In some of the footage, many will recognize much of the beach and aerial footage in South Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach. Melanie Cavanaugh (from South Ponte Vedra Turtle Patrol) and Scott make a brief cameo in Chapter 6.

Public attitudes about the environment in the early days changed with the 1962 publication of “Silent Spring,” by Rachel Carsen. This best-selling book raised awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and links between pollution and public health in America and in 24 countries. The founder of the movement, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, envisioned public awareness leading to public action.

Consequently, leading to the 50th year celebration in 2020, Earth Day activists have set a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees worldwide. Plant a tree and prevent them from being removed. For our future health and well-being of our environment, take simple actions to protect and appreciate Earth’s resources.

Contact Sallie O’Hara at tarahill@bellsouth.net.

Dates to remember

■ April 20: Vilano Main Street Meeting, 4 p.m., Hampton Inn (95 Vilano Road)

■ April 26: May Street Intersection public meeting, 4:30 p.m., Holiday Inn (Ponce de Leon Boulevard)

■ April 29-30: Fishing for Dreams Tournament, St. Augustine Boating Club, 904-669-2922

Source: Sallie O’Hara: Vilano Beach gearing up for sea turtle nesting season


Partner Spotlight – Sea Turtle Conservancy

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The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. An international nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization, Sea Turtle Conservancy was founded in 1959 by world-renowned sea turtle expert Dr. Archie Carr to save sea turtles from eminent extinction through rigorous science-based conservation. Headquartered in Florida, the organization carries out worldwide programs to conserve and recover sea turtle populations through research, education, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which depend upon. Over the course of 55 years, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s research programs have yielded much of what is now known about sea turtles and the threats they face, and the organization is applying this knowledge to carry out the world’s most successful sea turtle protection and recovery programs.

STC has chosen sea turtles as the focus of its conservation efforts in part because these ancient creatures are among the most important indicators of the health of the world’s marine and coastal ecosystems. STC believes that whether sea turtles ultimately vanish from the planet or whether they remain a wild and thriving part of the natural world, will speak volumes about both the general health of the planet and the ability of humans to sustainably coexist with the diversity of life on Earth.

Some of STC’s current projects include: retrofitting the Florida panhandle with sea turtle-friendly lighting; tagging and monitoring turtles in Costa Rica and Panama; advocating for laws and policies that address sea level rise and educating the general public; satellite tracking sea turtles; administering the sea turtle grants program and much more! Learn more at www.conserveturtles.org

Partner Spotlight – Oceana

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Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Our offices around the world work together to win strategic, directed campaigns that achieve measurable outcomes that will help make our oceans more bio diverse and abundant.

The U.S. Department of the Interior is considering opening a large swath of the Atlantic to offshore oil and gas exploration  and offshore drilling. Oceana has worked for the past 3 years to prevent the dangerous use of seismic airguns used to search for oil and gas off our Atlantic coast, and the drilling it could lead to. Seismic airguns are so loud that they can disturb, injure and even  kill marine life.

Since Oceana began working to stop this threat to marine life, 109 East Coast municipalities, 101 Members of Congress, more than 700 state and local elected officials, and roughly 1,100 business interests have all publically opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic blasting, citing threats to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation.

Seismic airgun blasting, the process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor, is also being considered for an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from Delaware to Florida. President Obama needs to hear from the people who will be most affected by seismic blasting and offshore drilling — and that’s where you come in. We have some great momentum, but we’re only going to #StopTheDrill if more of us take up the call, and urge your elected officials to #ProtectOurCoast.  You can help your city pass a resolution opposing this threat. Learn more here: http://usa.oceana.org/seismic-airgun-testing/pass-resolution-your-town-or-city-step-step-guide

Partner Spotlight – Florida Wildlife Federation

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The Florida Wildlife Federation is a private, statewide, non-profit citizens’ conservation education organization composed of thousands of concerned Floridians and other citizens from all walks of life who have a common interest in preserving, managing, and improving Florida’s fish, wildlife, soil, water, and plant life. As the State Affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, FWF has been improving Florida’s wildlife since 1936. The “Goal” of the Federation is to be the leader in promoting, through education and political action, the conservation, restoration, sound management, and wise and ethical use of Florida’s natural resources, to the end that present and future Floridians may live, work and pursue traditional outdoor activities in an outstanding natural environment.

Florida Wildlife Federation Coastal Policy to Protect our Beaches and Shores:

In 2015, as part of our ongoing effort to preserve our coasts, FWF assisted with the development of a film entitled “Battle for the Barriers: Nature Always Wins.”  Compounded by sea level rise and stronger, more frequent storms, lives and infrastructure in coastal communities are increasingly at risk for flooding and wind-driven destruction from super storms and hurricanes.  The film explores adaptation strategies and projects in coastal states along the U. S. Eastern seaboard, designed to safeguard people, wildlife and properties in storm-prone areas.  There are appearances in the film by former Congressman Tom Evans, Jr. (an FWF volunteer Board Member), Manley Fuller, FWF President, and Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation President. FWF has also worked with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in educating Floridians about the serious nature of sea level rise, coastal development and impacts to fish and wildlife.

FWF is a strong supporter of the Coastal Barriers Resources Act (CBRA) which provides protection to barrier islands and sensitive coastlines.  FWF is supporting appropriate sea level rise adaptation policies for Florida, a state that is already experiencing the effects of sea level rise, particularly in South Florida.  To view a clip of the film, produced by Sharon Baker and Teleduction, Inc., please visit http://www.fwfonline.org/The-Issues/Coastal-Barrier-Resources-Act.aspx or view below. FWF is also a founding member and active participant of Smarter Safer, a coalition of conservation and business interests committed to coastal policies and legislation that promote public safety, save taxpayer dollars and which protect coastal fish and wildlife habitat. Acquisition of properties subject to flooding can also lead to shoreline wildlife habitat and improved public recreational access to our waters and shorelines.

Partner Spotlight – The Sink or Swim Project

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Delaney (right) with actor/musician Jack Black (left), who interviewed her as part of a new show that will focus on South Florida’s sea level challenges.

The Sink or Swim Project is designed to educate, inform and engage people on climate change and especially the risks from sea level rise that South Florida and our planet face. The Sink or Swim Project was founded by Delaney Reynolds, a fourth generation Miami, Florida resident that splits her time between that vibrant city of a few million people and a 1,000 acre island in the Florida Keys named No Name Key that’s best known for having just 43 solar powered homes, along with a few hundred of the diminutive Key Deer.
The Sink or Swim Project’s core educational work involves classroom presentations to school age children and young adults, as well as college students and adults. We use real science in informative and creative ways to illustrate exactly what has happened to our warming planet, what is about to happen in our lifetime (and beyond), in addition to discussing possible solutions. Power point presentations, videos and hands on tools and props are utilized to engage participants in hopes that they will become involved.
In addition to our educational efforts, social activism is a growing part of The Sink or Swim Project’s work. This includes periodically sharing our thoughts on a variety of issues ranging from science to politics via our blog and social media (Facebook , Twitter and Instagram), as well as public speaking on political topics of concern.  
Late 2015 and early 2016 has been a very busy time for The Sink or Swim Project. Some examples of its recent work would include the following:
In addition to being featured in the Ahead of the Tide series, our founder, Delaney Reynolds, has also been filmed for inclusion in the Emmy award winning Years of Living Dangerously series that will appear later this year on The National Geographic Channel. In December, Delaney spent the day with The Year’s Miami Correspondent, actor/musician Jack Black, who interviewed her as part of the show that will focus on South Florida’s sea level challenges.
Just before Christmas, The Sink or Swim Project went global by making its presentation via Skype from Miami one night to a girls’ school, Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior, India, the next morning. The Indian girls, while half a world apart, had the same concerns and passions that Delaney does here in Miami and were inspired by her to become involved in their community to seek solutions for the future. To read more about The Sink or Swim Project’s India presentation click here: http://miamisearise.com/2015/12/28/from-india-with-love/
One of The Sink or Swim Project’s recent classroom sessions took place on January 30th for the Breakthrough Miami program and a group of 80 students. More on this event and the excellent interaction the children had that day can be found at http://miamisearise.com/2016/02/12/february-is-for-much-more-than-flowers-candy/.
On February 26th Delaney gave a TED Talk in Miami about The Sink or Swim Project and the need for voters to demand more from our political leaders. The Talk will be posted on YouTube, as well as www.miamisearise.com in about a month.
On February 27th, Delaney proudly lectured at the University of Miami as part of their annual Empowering Effective Climate Communications, a gathering of the region’s top climate scientists and policy makers. In addition to speaking about The Sink or Swim Project’s educational and activism efforts, she was also pleased to share the Ahead of the Tide trailer and invite everyone to become involved with this important initiative.
And to end the month with a ‘bang’ The Sink or Swim Project was proud to learn that Delaney Reynolds was selected to serve on Phillipe Cousteau’s newly created International Youth Leadership Board/Council.  To learn more about Earth Echo’s amazing work, as well as the Council, please visit here: http://earthecho.org/news/earthecho-youth-leadership-council.  
2016 holds the promise of what we hope will be much more productive work including activism in the 2016 Presidential Election, adding a section to our website on Solar Power in hopes of changing ‘The Sunshine State’ into “The Solar State’ and continuing our classroom educational efforts in hope of engaging as many young people as possible to become involved and part of the solution with the hope that we can cool our planet and change our behaviors to protect it.

Partner Spotlight – Surfrider Foundation

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Todd Remmel (left) and Tom Warnke (right) of the Palm Beach Chapter in “Ahead of the Tide” video series about Florida’s sea level rise.

The Surfrider Foundation is the single largest network of coastal defenders supported at the national level with policy, legal and science experts. Our network turns passion for their coasts into lasting protection of their favorite beaches for all to enjoy. With a track record of victory after victory for more than 30 years, the Surfrider Foundation aspires to protect every mile of coastline in the U.S.

Surfrider’s focus is 100% on the protection of our ocean, waves and beaches. We care immensely about how the land meets the sea. We have one foot in the sand and the other in the water. In Florida, we work diligently to protect our beaches for future generations. We proactively address threats like coastal development, sea walls and other types of shoreline armoring and beach dredge and fill projects to ensure the protection of our coast.

We also focus our local efforts on ensuring universal, low-impact beach access for all people. Surfrider Foundation works with decision-making bodies to evaluate each beach access issue that arises. We also pursue litigation to ensure full and fair access to all beaches, for all people. Being able to access the places we love is something we take very seriously. We protect and preserve access to these places so that we can enjoy them.

Each of the eleven Florida Surfrider Foundation chapters is volunteer-run and totally grassroots. That means that our Florida chapters engage in a diverse array of local issues– from monitoring and improving water quality to banning single-use plastics.

Join us today as we work to keep our beaches open for everyone, promote smart coastal development that avoids coastal impacts, protect special ocean and coastal places before they are threatened, ensure the water is clean to surf and swim in and to keep beaches free of plastic debris and litter. Help us to empower everyday citizens to become leaders in their coastal communities and to be defenders of the coast.