Many of you are familiar with our work on St. Pete Beach. Did you know that we are also responsible for nest monitoring on Shell Key? Shell Key is a small barrier island normally accessible only by boat. In 2016, there are more sea turtle nests on Shell Key than ever recorded in Sea Turtle Trackers 35+ year history. Unfortunately, many of these nests are predated by coyotes before volunteers can reach the nests to cage them. We no longer have a working boat to bring volunteers and required supplies out to Shell Key
We have been extremely fortunate to have received many rides out to Shell Key and back from our friends at Island Ferry They can be reached at 727-742-2277
Island Ferry - Sebastian and Captain Dan have spent many hours of their own time hauling us out there with our equipment. They get up before dawn to do this on their own time, as there are no scheduled Ferry trips out to Shell Key that early. It's quite a treat to go over to the island in style in their small comfortable vessel. They've also donated their time and boat for Beach Cleanup activities at Shell Key, taking groups of volunteers from Fort De Soto to Shell Key and back. However, they too have lives and responsibilities and we definitely don't want to take them for granted.
On those days when we can't hitch a ride with Island Ferry or another boater, Shell Key becomes much more difficult to patrol. Recently, a temporary land bridge has formed from private property in Tierra Verde, but only a few Iron Women and Iron Men have what it takes to patrol from there. They access this land bridge and walk nearly 7 miles round-trip looking for sea turtle nests. The heat is grueling and the work perilous. Beachfront on the island is split in the center by mangroves, requiring volunteers to crawl through mangroves hauling nest staking and cage materials in order to provide lifesaving protection for the eggs. Only 1 in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings reach adulthood. Thus, it is critical to protect every nest to maximize the number of hatchlings reaching the Gulf.
So, we're looking for a boat again. We've already spent about as much to repair the current boat as it cost us to buy it (apparently a familiar concept for some used-boat owners). We can't in good conscience keep pouring money into the one we have. We'll continue to have fundraising drives with the goal of buying a new vessel. If you can help, please donate and help spread the word that we're looking for a boat. Maybe someone you know is looking to upgrade theirs and donate to us. Thanks!