Grant: 18-018C
Project Title: Transportation for the Changing Conditions on Shell Key Preserve
Project Manager: Lucy Monette
Organization: Sea Turtle Trackers, Inc. (Non-Profit Organization)
Grant Amount: $3,050.00
Completion Date: 2019-03-05

Summary: 2016 was a record year for Sea Turtle Trackers, Inc when 63 sea turtle nests were found on Shell Key, a small barrier island off St Pete Beach. Then 2017 came around and surpassed the 2016 record by a landslide. This year a staggering 104 nests were found on Shell Key. Volunteers patrol Shell Key starting at 6AM during nesting season due to the high depredation rates. To prevent depredation on Shell Key self-releasing welded-wire mesh predator enclosures are the method of control. Shell Key is only accessible by boat and thus volunteers have been relying on outside parties for transportation to/from the island since at this point there is no reliable method of transportation. This method creates scheduling conflicts, make carrying supplies more difficult and often results in volunteers walking the 7 miles of Shell Key in summertime to provide lifesaving protection. This year a new challenge was created after Hurricane Irma hit Tampa Bay. There is a channel that splits Shell Key into two parts. Previously during high tide this channel was ankle deep with water so easily traversable. Following Hurricane Irma the channel waters are now 3 feet deep during low tide and over 4 feet during high tide. The current is also strong making the area dangerous to traverse. Sea Turtle Trackers, Inc will match grant funds to purchase a boat in an effort to secure reliable transportation to Shell Key.

Results: With the help with Sea Turtle License Plate Grant, Sea Turtle Trackers, Inc purchased a 2003 MJI VS boat for Shell Key transportation. The 2018 nesting season was a success due to having reliable transportation. As a result of Hurricane Irma Shell Key now has a channel that splits the island in two, making the south side of the island only reachable by boat. Having a boat this nesting season allowed Sea Turtle Trackers, Inc to perform our patrol duties without the stress of transportation. Sea Turtle Trackers, Inc successfully purchased a boat for the 2018 nesting season. The boat was wrapped to include the Sea Turtle License Plate Grant logo. The boat was vital in this year’s nesting success.