The Loggerhead Marinelife Center and the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida has launched the Sea Turtle Protection Zone (STPZ) in Palm Beach County.
It is geared to protect sea turtles from unintended boat strikes during nesting season between March 1 and October 31.
“It is one of the most common threats to sea turtles here at our hospital,” said Katie O’Hara, LMC Conservation Manager. “The sea turtle protection zone is a way to work collaboratively with the boating community. To provide science-based recommendations entirely voluntary recommendations on how boaters can avoid accidental sea turtle interactions in our oceans.”
This initiative is voluntary and extends one mile offshore from the Jupiter Inlet to the Lake Worth Inlet.
Leaders at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center said that during nesting season, sea turtles spend more time closer to the surface and close to their nesting beaches.
More turtles near the surface means there’s a greater chance of a boat might strike one by mistake.
"In Florida, the prevalence of vessel strikes on sea turtles has tripled in the past four decades according to Sea Turtle Stranding Salvage Network trends,” said O’Hara. “Over this period, government statistics show one-third of stranded turtles had injuries consistent with vessel strikes, with 50% of those arising in South Florida.
The STPZ recommends that boaters avoid traveling within the designated area, operating at the slowest speed possible when in the zone, and wearing polarized sunglasses to better spot wildlife on the surface.