Coastal Cleanup Corporation Helps Sea Turtles Nest
Volunteers at Florida cleanup
Volunteers sorting marine debris dockside
NOAA supported the Coastal Cleanup Corporation in its effort to remove marine debris from sea turtle nesting habitat.

Project Dates: July 2013 - October 2014

What is the project?

Sea turtle hatchlings have it tough. They face a host of predators on both land and in the ocean. While buried in the sand, the turtle eggs are subject to attack from crabs, worms, insects and their larvae, snakes, birds, and rodents. Once the eggs hatch, the young hatchlings have to fight their way out of their sandy nest and then make a dash for the ocean. The distance to the water can be long or short, but while they’re exposed on the beaches, they are vulnerable to the threats of many hungry predators. And marine debris that washes up on their beach only adds to the difficulty of making it to the relative safety of the ocean. And that same debris on the beach could prevent female sea turtles from laying their eggs in the first place.

Once the newly hatched sea turtles make it to the ocean, their life doesn't get much easier, and sadly, humans are contributing to the many natural difficulties sea turtles face. Humans discard unwanted fishing gear in the open ocean, crab and lobster traps and pots are left abandoned on the sea floor, and tons of our plastic trash floats on the ocean’s surface, where the young turtles spend most of their juvenile years.

Fortunately, there are excellent groups out there who sacrifice time, energy, and resources to removing marine debris found on nesting beaches and make a difference for the sea turtles.

Who is involved?
The Coastal Cleanup Corporation restored critical sea turtle nesting habitat on Elliott Key, Florida, making long-term ecological improvements to coastal habitat used by endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles. This project, funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program and supported by NOAA’s Restoration Center, delivered incredible results by conducting fifteen debris cleanups on Elliott Key. Volunteers focused on removing plastics, glass, foam, rubber and discarded fishing gear that washed up on the beaches from the ocean and could interfere with female sea turtles’ journey from the ocean to their nesting sites.

What does it accomplish?
Over the course of one year, the volunteers and project leaders removed 3.39 tons of marine debris on Elliott Key, FL. This impressive total included 113 derelict trap parts and 178 foam trap buoys which are a large issue in southern Florida. The project leaders extended their program by participating in public events in order to share project goals, achievements, and sea turtle science with local citizens.

What is something unique about the project?
The Coastal Cleanup Corporation, a local nonprofit, founded by George and Suzy Pappas, helps keep the shorelines clear of debris and with the support of partner funding and dedicated volunteers, they work to give the sea turtles using the Biscayne National Park a fighting chance.