FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
IT’S ALL ABOUT PROTECTING SEA TURTLES!
Q. Who do I call if I found a dead, sick or injured sea turtle, or to report someone disturbing a sea turtle or a nest?
A. Do not go near or touch the turtle, take flash photographs or shine lights on her.
- Call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-3922.
Q. Who do I call for sea turtle information, materials or to schedule an educational program?
A. We can provide educational programs and materials for schools, libraries, events, businesses, restaurants, vacation rentals, hotels, etc.
- Contact FOSWST today to let us know how we can work with you to spread awareness and education about sea turtles in Walton County!
Q. How can I volunteer to help sea turtles? What can I do?
A. That depends on what you are interested in doing.
- If you are interested in helping to provide educational programs, distributing educational materials, planning educational or fundraising events, or writing content for education and awareness materials, contact FOSWST here. We need volunteers who are skilled at communications, education, design, event planning, fundraising, and collaboration to join our team!
- To walk the beaches in the early mornings to find nests and turtles, you should contact one of the area’s Turtle Watch groups or find the one in your region: Emerald Coast Turtle Watch, Panama City Turtle Watch, South Walton Turtle Watch, etc. They will be able to direct you to the proper training dates and procedures. We do not provide that training and being a member of our organization does not make you a member of theirs.
Q. I can’t volunteer but would like to support sea turtle conservation.
A. There are quick and easy ways to be a Friend to Sea Turtles even if you cannot volunteer. Its as simple as #CleanDarkFlat!
- Take all of your “stuff” off the beach when you leave. Chairs, toys, and towels pose serious hazards for sea turtles.
- Put trash in the trash bins provided.
- Keep lights that can be seen from the beach turned off at night or at least faced away from the water.
- Use only red light emitting flashlights such as those found at www.turtlesafeonline.com, many hardware stores, and the Blue Giraffe shop on Scenic Highway 30A. You can also use stickers for your flashlights found at www.turtlesafeproducts.com or request some from us.
- Fill in your holes and smooth out your sandcastles for the night
- Report any seen sea turtle activity to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office or call the Florida Marine Patrol 24 Hour Hotline: (850) 233-5150.
Q. What do donations support?
A. Education and awareness to increase sea turtle conservation in our region of the Florida panhandle
- Your donations to Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles supports the development, printing and distribution of educational and awareness materials – from coloring books and magnets to stickers and website hosting.
- As a completely volunteer run organization, donations to FOSWST do not support salaries or heavy administrative costs.
- Read about our organization, find our minutes detailing decisions and expenses, and find out about our volunteers here.
- Read about our supporters or consider making a donation.
Q. Why are there two organizations working on turtle conservation in Walton County?
A. Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles (FOSWST) and South Walton Turtle Watch (SWTW) do different things with the same end goal. But, we understand that there is still some confusion about the difference between SWTW and FOSWST.
- In 2014 the local Turtle Watch organization asked us to form as a separate group to handle sea turtle education and awareness programming in Walton County, Florida.
- SWTW provides an incredibly important service to the county and state government by monitoring and protecting turtles and nests as the Permit Holders for our region contracted by the Walton County TDC to provide that important service.
- We at FOSWST provide educational programs and materials about sea turtles to rentals, restaurants, businesses, schools and other organizations to educate locals, visitors, and their children about how to protect sea turtles. We are a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization managed by volunteers. We rely on donations and funds raised through donation jars and events.
- Sea turtles need us all to work together in this effort and we are proud to work collaboratively with all conservation minded individuals, businesses, government agencies, aquariums and nonprofit organizations to do just that!
Q. Are Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles and South Walton Turtle Watch affiliated?
A. The two organizations are not affiliated but tackle the same end goal from different angles along with many other friendly organizations which work as a Team for Turtles! The two South Walton organizations share similar names and an overall cause: conservation of sea turtles, but we are two distinct entities. The difference comes in our focus areas and how we do things. To clarify:
FRIENDS OF SOUTH WALTON SEA TURTLES (FOSWST)
- FOSWST is a new group, funded by private donations and donation jars, and staffed completely by volunteers. FOSWST is the go to group when it comes to public awareness and education outreach to encourage more successful nests in the future.
- Our mission is Sea Turtle Conservation through Awareness and Education. For us – it’s all about education!!
- Our organization was incorporated as a non profit with the State of Florida in February 2015 and received our 501 (c)(3) status in February 2016.
- We are managed by a dedicated volunteer board and have a core of hard working volunteers who help us with everything from designing and distributing educational coloring books to providing content for our website and social media awareness campaigns.
- We spread information on what the average beachgoer can do – such as our innovative #CleanDarkFlat campaign created by our social media committee this past spring. We provide education and materials to area businesses and children. We provide educational programs and will be hosting events to raise funds to enhance these efforts.
- All of our funding so far has come from private supporters, in-kind donations, and donation jars set up around South Walton County!
- More than 80% of funds collected have been used to fund the printing of materials and supplies for educational and awareness programs such as activity books, stickers, educational placemats, and our informative website. The remaining funds have been used for nonprofit startup expenses but since we have no paid staff or offices, our administrative costs will remain very low.
SOUTH WALTON TURTLE WATCH (SWTW)
- SWTW has been in existence since 1995 and their organization’s efforts are incredibly important!
- South Walton Turtle Watch serves as the Walton County TDC contractor to oversee nest monitoring, data collection and analysis under the direction of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) monitoring program.
- All sea turtle monitoring programs in Florida are conducted under the authority of FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section, which issues permits to qualified individuals to perform specific activities in support of the State’s sea turtle protection programs. The SWTW is responsible for collecting sea turtle data for the portion of the Plan Area managed by the County government.
- Under the direction of the group’s permit holders, SWTW staff and volunteers monitor all beaches outside the State Parks in Walton County. The Walton County TDC funds the SWTW program and staff to oversee turtle nest monitoring and nest protection on the beaches of South Walton County not overseen by state parks.
Q. Where can I find more information on sea turtles, conservation and education?
A. There are many ways to learn more about sea turtles, how to help them and what to do if you find a nest.
- Visit the Education section of our website for many links.
- Attend one of our meetings or upcoming events like the Trash Cleanup at ED Walline on August 22nd.
- Sign up for our newsletter.
- Follow our blog.
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- Visit the local South Walton Coastal Branch Public Library which has an excellent selection of books and materials on sea turtles.