Loggerhead Marinelife Center Launches First Ever Responsible Pier Initiative in Florida

ImageLoggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) has created the first Responsible Pier Initiative in the state of Florida and is already seeing positive changes because of it.  Sea turtle strandings and entanglement with fishing gear are common occurrences throughout the state of Florida.  Each year, more than 250,000 sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by U.S. fisherman.  Many of these injuries and deaths take place while turtles are migrating through highly fished areas. These occurrences prompted the center to take action.

“We identified local fishing piers as an area in dire need of ocean conservation and sea turtle awareness education,” said Tommy Cutt, LMC Chief Conservation Officer. Cutt explained that many times fishermen will accidently hook a sea turtle and cut off the fishing line. “Although there is no prosecution for hooking a sea turtle, we want to educate the fishing community and public about the importance of contacting the proper authorities,” he added.

The Responsible Pier Initiative consists of three components.

  • Cleaning beneath the pier and surrounding areas on a regular basis
  • Hosting annual educational workshops for first responders
  • Displaying educational signage on the pier

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Jupiter Dive Center, Loggerhead Marina, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Inc., Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, Scubapro, the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative and West Palm Beach Fishing Club are nine of the many organizations who have already endorsed this initiative. Moving forward, LMC has plans to introduce the program to like-minded organizations and fishing piers around the state of Florida. “We are extremely thankful to these organizations for standing behind us on this new initiative. We truly believe that this could help save hundreds of sea turtles annually and provide a brighter outcome for future generations,” Cutt added. Lake Worth Fishing Pier and Dania Beach Fishing Pier have already committed to implementing the Responsible Pier Initiative in the future.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center has been actively cleaning the Juno Beach Pier on a quarterly basis since 2011. Since its start, LMC and Jupiter Dive Center have removed over 1,300 lbs. of debris from underneath the pier, most of it consisting of monofilament fishing line, lead fishing weights and fishing hooks. Fisheries interactions and boat strikes impacted one in four of the sea turtle patients treated at LMC last year, emphasizing the need for the Responsible Pier Initiative.

In 2012, LMC directed conservation training sessions with staff from the Juno Beach Fishing Pier, Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation and Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management. The purpose of these efforts was to provide first responders at the pier and local beaches with the necessary information to respond effectively to traumatic sea turtle injuries and strandings.

The final component of this initiative can be seen right here in Juno Beach. The sea turtle rescue and response signage, funded by Palm Beach County has been placed on the pier and continues to act as an educational guide. This signage provides instructions on the proper way to respond if a sea turtle is caught on a fishing hook or entangled in monofilament fishing line.  This information has proven to be both informative and effective.

As a result of the Responsible Pier Initiative, one sea turtle has already been successfully rescued. A sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle was transported to LMC back in September 2012 after being accidentally hooked by a fisherman at the Juno Beach fishing pier. Because the first responders had participated in the center’s educational workshops, officials knew the proper protocol for handling a hooked sea turtle. Once the sea turtle arrived at the center’s hospital, radiographs revealed the sea turtle had ingested four hooks; two in the oral cavity, one in the stomach and another further in the intestinal tract. Surgery was performed to remove the two in the mouth and one in the stomach. The final hook was passed a week later. After five months of rehabilitation, the sea turtle was released back into the wild.

This story emphasizes the need for ocean conservation and sea turtle awareness education, specifically around fishing piers. Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s main goal for the Responsible Pier Initiative is to bring the world-class ocean conservation education and program to all of the piers in the state of Florida. If you’re interested in bringing the Responsible Pier Initiative to your local pier or area, please contact Tommy Cutt, LMC Chief Conservation Officer at tcutt@marinelife.org or 561-627-8280 ext. 116. 

# # #

About Loggerhead Marinelife Center:

Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a non-profit organization, is committed to the conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through public education, research and rehabilitation with a focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The center features an on-site campus hospital, learning exhibits and aquariums. Situated on one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beach, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is open daily and hosts over 215,000 visitors each year. For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call 561-627-8280.