Blue Community Program Coastal Sustainability Best Practices

Tour de Turtles: A Race to Save the Turtles 


 

Recently I attended Tour de Turtles event at Disney Vero Beach.

Tour de Turtles is a 90 day race between sea turtles from countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Cuba, Nevis and Florida, USA.

Seventeen turtles were tagged this year with a tracing device so their movements can be followed each day. The turtle that travels the farthest in 90 days wins the race.

Each turtle is also racing for a cause that will improve the likelihood of survivability of sea turtles around the world. Causes include: water quality, plastic debris, light pollution, climate change, harvest for meat consumption, commercial trawl fisheries, egg harvest for consumption, illegal sea turtle shell trade, commercial longline fisheries, invasive species predation, beach erosion, oil spills, and boat strikes.

We arrived mid-day on Friday where we were greeted by Tic Toc  the alligator and checked into our beautiful room over looking the beach.

The mural behind the check in invites the guest to memories of time that have past including themes of tall sailing ships, the Dodgers baseball team when they played in Vero Beach, Florida fruit and beach vacations.   All with Mickey and Minnie featured in the mural.
 

            

Our room was simple and elegant with a fantastic view of the beach below.   We had time for a walk on the beach before grabbing a bite to eat at the Wind and Wave.

            
 

There are several dining options at Disney Vero Beach.  During our stay we dined at the Wind and Waves Grill, ordered a Mickey pizza, sandwiches, and purchased breakfast food from the Wind and Waves Market.  We also enjoyed drinks and snacks at the pool at the Wind and Waves Bar.  

In past visits we have also enjoyed lunches and dinners at the Green Cabin room as well.


The next morning we walked from the room to the beach to participate in the Tour de Turtles event.

Disney Vero Beach Resort prides itself on being a sustainable tourism resort.  They are Florida Green Lodging certified, have extensive education for guests to protect sea turtles, utilize solar energy with panels mounted on their roofs, and have programs to reduce energy, water, and waste.

The Green Check to the left was in our room to remind us to join this effort of conservation as we left our room that morning.

Down on the beach, hundreds of guests joined in several educational activities prior to the the release of two Loggerhead turtles that were tagged the night before by the Disney Animal Science & Environment team for release in the morning.  Guests were encouraged to play big. 

Some of the educational activities included: exhibits showing how long it takes for various items to biodegrade, how turtle excluder devices work, information on sustainable seafood, a sea turtle survival game, and tracking for the Disney Vero Beach turtles from past years.

The biodegradable exhibit included ten buckets each with a different item such as wood, plastic, metal, etc. in a bucket that included a able of how long it would take to break down.    

For example while a piece of cotton only takes 1 to 5 months, an aluminum can can take 200 years, plastic can take over 1000 years, and glass 1 million years.   The exhibit brought awareness to recycle and reduce waste.  Click Here 
 for more info on how long it takes for different materials to decompose.
 

The Turtle excluder exhibit allowed children to become a turtle and get caught in a net and find out how to escape with the turtle excluder device.   Turtle excluder devices are an important tool that the fishing industry can utilize to reduce catching and killing sea turtles and other marine mammals.

The exhibit gave children a hands on experience on how the excluder worked as they took a toy turtle through the net and then escaped.


The sustainable seafood exhibit included information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program showing guests how to make the best choices for sustainable seafood.  Oceans are overfished at a rate of 40% more than is sustainable.   

Guests who choose to eat more sustainable seafood are making a difference in reducing our unsustainable fishing.

The Sea Turtle Survival game was a large board game where participants took turns throwing a large die and moving their piece around the board all the while learning the challenges baby sea turtles face once they are hatched in getting from their nest to the ocean.


It is estimated that only 1 in 1000 hatchings survive into adulthood.  Learning how to increase survival chances was the key objective of this game along with what humans can do to assist.

 

Tour de Turtles has been releasing turtles for over ten years and Disney has been one of the sponsors of a couple turtles each year.

The turtles are tracked for research purposes far beyond the 90 day race . 

In the map to the left, Disney shows the routes that 18 of its turtles it has sponsored in the past have taken.

Since over 90% of a sea turtles life is in the sea, the tracking provide important data on what areas are in need of most protection as well as how we can best protect the sea turtle.   All seven species of sea turtles are either threatened, endangered or critically endangered.  This research is a critical piece to reversing that trend.

 

This years Disney Vero Beach Tour de Turtles theme was Toy Story, and the two turtles released were named Trixie and Ms. Potato Head.

The Disney Vero Beach release of the two turtles began the start of the weekend launch for Tour de Turtles.

Before the race guests can get up close to view the two turtles about to be released who have their satellite trackers mounted and are ready to head back to the ocean.

 

       
 

The video below shows the start for Trixie and Ms. Potato Head who entered the water to the cheers of hundreds of guests on the Disney Vero Beach.

                       

That evening there was a reception and auction at the Barrier Island Research Center about 15 minutes up the road.  The event included live music, delicious food, and special event rum drinks provided by Naked Turtle Rum.

    

The following morning the Sea Turtle Conservancy released two more turtles from the Barrier Island Center.

                         

Following the release at the Barrier Island Center I had the opportunity to interview Stacey Marquis, the development coordinator and lighting specialist for the Sea Turtle Conservancy.  Stacy provides great information and tips on what guests can do to assist in protecting sea turtles.


                         
 

When we returned from the Barrier Island Research Center it was time to relax at the Disney Vero Beach Resort.  The resort has many activities to choose from including miniature golf, bicycle rentals, a spa, sing along campfires, golf, the Anchors A-weigh Fitness room, basketball, volleyball, surf school, kayaking excursions, sea turtle outings, a mickey mouse ear shaped pool and of course the Atlantic ocean beach.

   

I found it fascinating to just look at the many Disney, Dodger, and pirate memorabilia in the Disney Vero Beach Inn.  Much to explore.


   

    It was also nice to just relax in the room.   The video below was taken from the balcony deck in our room.

                            

 The pool and hot tub was a great way to end the day.   Back in the room we were careful to keep our lights off and/or our curtains closed so not to confuse the turtle hatchings coming out of their nest on the beach.  Disney Vero Beach also does its part with low LED lighting that is positioned to not shine toward the beach and hidden behind the trees and landscaping.    Can't wait to return again next year.

       
 
 

Dr. David W. Randle - is Managing Director International Ocean Institute Waves of Change Blue Community Initiative, and President & CEO WHALE Center.  Follow David Randle on Twitter

Glossary

Citation

Randle, D. (2018). Tour de Turtles: A Race to Save the Turtles 
. Retrieved from http://www.bluecommunity.info/view/article/5b8efa2b0cf26bc6ab8f4ee4

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