All species of sea turtles in Florida are listed as either threatened or endangered by the federal Endangered Species Act. In addition, sea turtles are protected by Florida Statute 370.12, the Marine Turtle Protection Act. Anyone found harassing a sea turtle or interfering with the nesting process faces criminal and civil penalties.
DON PEDRO-KNIGHT ISLAND SEA TURTLE PATROL
The mission of the "Turtle Patrol" is to nurture and promote an environment which contributes to the healthy propagation of the sea turtle, a valued natural treasure. With the assistance of public and private support, the aim of this organization is to provide turtle patrol volunteers with the necessary equipment and materials to monitor sea turtle embryos and hatchlings so they may safely enter the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in their journey to adulthood.
The Turtle Patrol Team is made up of 10-15 volunteers. They are permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Island (Don Pedro, Knight, & Palm) is divided into zones and each morning from May 1 until Oct. 31 the volunteers document all new nests and every new false crawl. They watch over the nests and care for them as needed. As the season grows to a close, they document the number of babies hatched and unhatched, the number of babies destroyed, and the number of dead and alive babies in the nests and count the total of all the eggs in the nests.
The patrol mainly documents the activity of the loggerhead sea turtle but has recently documented an uptick in green sea turtle nests. The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta) is easily distinguished by its relatively large head. The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) gets its name from the greenish color of its body fat and has the presence of a pair of scales on the front of its forehead.