Help protect birds, sea turtles

Nesting season has started for both sea turtles and waterbirds in the Sunshine State, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds people they can help protect vulnerable nesting sea turtles and waterbirds this spring and summer while visiting Florida’s coastal habitats.

The state’s shorelines are critical for sea turtle and waterbird nesting, and beachgoers can have a big impact on their nesting success. To help nesting sea turtles and waterbirds, the FWC urges human beachgoers to give them space, minimize disturbances, and keep beaches clean and dark.

• Beachgoers should stash all trash, fill in human-made holes in the sand, and remove boats, beach toys and furniture from the beach before sunset. Properly dispose of fishing line.

• Use natural starlight to see on the beach at night and avoid using flashlights or cellphones. If lighting is visible from the beach, be sure it is long, low and shielded. 

• Stay 50 feet or more from nesting sea turtles. It’s illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles and their nests, eggs and hatchlings. Shorebirds, seabirds and wading birds also need plenty of space to prevent them from flushing from their breeding sites.

In general, it is best to keep at least 300 feet from nesting birds and to avoid walking through flocks of birds or entering posted areas. Pet owners can also help by keeping dogs at home or on a short leash and away from wildlife on pet-friendly beaches.

Commission removes first boats via program

Since the inception of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Vessel Turn-In Program in late 2022, the agency has received 28 applications from owners of at-risk or unwanted vessels.

The first two vessels removed through this program were removed from Pasco and Pinellas County in early March. 

FWC will dispose of a surrendered vessel at no cost to the owner. Removing the vessel before it deteriorates into a derelict condition will prevent legal ramifications for the vessel owner, protect Florida’s valuable seagrass resources, marine life and human life, safety, and property, and save Florida taxpayers money. 

To qualify for VTIP, a vessel must be afloat and cannot be determined derelict by law enforcement. The owner must have at least one written warning or citation for an at-risk condition and possess a clear title to the vessel. 

The FWC is taking applications from at-risk vessel owners for the Vessel Turn-In Program. Vessel owners can call VTIP specialists at the FWC for more information on the program at 850-488-5600 or find more information on the FWC website at and clicking on “Vessel Turn-In Program” on the second slider at the top of the page.