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Responsible Boating Initiative

Florida waters are home to thousands of sea turtles and many other species of marine life. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these animals exhibit signs of injuries from unintentional boat strikes, fishing hooks and unintended entanglement in fishing line. You can help protect these threatened and endangered species by practicing responsible boating, fishing and diving methods when you are out on the water.

The Responsible Boater Initiative consists of three core components:
1. Educational workshops conducted for marina managers and the boating community
2. Educational signage at participating marinas
3. Waterway cleanups
4. Voluntary Speed Reduction Zones

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Voluntary Speed Reduction Zones

Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) was awarded a grant from the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program for a Voluntary Speed Reduction Zone Project (VSRZ).  Loggerhead Marinelife Center, in collaboration with the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida and the FrameWorks Institute, aims to decrease unintentional harmful interactions between sea turtles and boaters through the development of a Voluntary Speed Reduction Zone (VSRZ) in offshore waters from Jupiter Inlet to Lake Worth Inlet, Palm Beach County, FL.

Each year, tens of thousands of sea turtles migrate to Palm Beach County to lay their eggs where more than 40,000 vessels are registered in the county (FLHSMV 2017). As such, unintentional vessel strikes have become a significant threat to sea turtles in the area. Approximately 20% of all reported stranded turtles in Florida have evidence of previous vessel strikes (Foley et al. 2017).

Loggerhead Marinelife Center is working with local boaters to encourage them to travel at reduced boat speeds during nesting season to reduce unintentional boat strike injuries on sea turtles in Palm Beach County. At Loggerhead Marinelife Center, over 90% of all unintentional boat strike injuries seen at our sea turtle hospital are fatal. This zone will be established in nearshore waters from Jupiter Inlet to Lake Worth Inlet, an area known to be densely nested in the summer months.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

1. Establish a reduced speed for boaters to voluntarily observe while traveling in critical sea turtle reproductive habitat during nesting season (from Jupiter to Lake Worth Inlets).

2. Develop a strategic messaging plan based on empirical research to determine the most effective methods to increase understanding and compliance among boaters.

3. Develop outreach materials and conduct outreach efforts to improve understanding of issue and empower boaters to make informed decisions to decrease their impact on sea turtles.

4. Increase awareness of boaters about the presence of sea turtles in the project area.

5. Increase the number of vessels traveling at the suggested, reduced speed within the VSRZ.

6. Decrease the number of sea turtle/vessel interactions within the project area.

The incidence of unintentional boat strikes to sea turtles has tripled in Florida since 1980 with nearly 50% of those interactions occurring in south Florida from Palm Beach to Miami-Dade counties. The greatest number of reported unintentional boat strikes for leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles occurred during nesting season.

With nearly 40,000 registered vessel owners in Palm Beach County alone, sea turtle conservation efforts are critical to educate boaters and help protect sea turtles.

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