More than 1,000 runners and walkers hit the beach to help endangered and threatened sea turtles during Mote Marine Laboratory’s 31st annual Run for the Turtles today, April 1, on Siesta Public Beach. (Race results below).
The Run, a 5K race sanctioned by the Manasota Track Club and a 1-mile fun-run/walk, has provided major support for Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. In mid-April, Mote scientists and volunteers will begin their 36th year coordinating sea turtle conservation along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. Sea turtle nesting season officially spans May through October in southwest Florida.
"This event is hugely important for our efforts to study and protect sea turtles, whether we are monitoring their nesting beaches or tagging turtles to understand their nesting and movement patterns," said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. "We are really starting to see the benefits of our conservation efforts. The local sea turtle nest count has doubled twice in recent years. Because sea turtles take decades to mature, we think we are now seeing the benefit of conservation efforts Mote began 35 years ago.Today, everyone who turned out for the Run is supporting a future generation of nesting turtles."
At the Run, participants and scores of friends and supporters brightened up Siesta Public Beach before sunrise, starting with a warm-up workout with Crunch Fitness. Mote mascot Shelley the Sea Turtle greeted runners younger than 9 to older than 80. Then runners hit the beach, competing for overall fastest times for males and females in the 5K and 1-mile races, along with fastest time for each age group in the 5K.
At the awards ceremony, Mote Trustee Scott Collins addressed the guests:
"It is wonderful to see such a great turnout for Mote's Run for the Turtles," Collins said. "Supporters like you have allowed Mote to thrive as part of this community. The program you're supporting today, Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, has monitored more than 82,538 turtle activities and protected more than two million turtle hatchlings to date. Thank you all for going the extra mile for sea turtles."
The Program has also tagged 6,172 turtles for identification and even fitted some with satellite transmitter tags to track the turtles' migrations through the ocean.
To amplify the Run’s support for marine science and conservation, Mote joined forces with Positive Tracks, which helps young people get active and give back through the organization’s U23 Challenges Program. In 2017, Positive Tracks generously pledged to help youths organize fundraising efforts around the Run and double every dollar raised by Run team members up to $23 and team captains' dollars up to $230.
Everyone can support Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. Donate by texting "Mote" to 243725 (BIDPAL).
Mote thanks the sponsors who made this event possible, including: New Balance; Fleet Feet; Manasota Track Club; Mote Scientific Foundation; The Mosaic Company; United Natural Foods Inc.; CapTrust Advisors; Lynches Pub & Grub; Crunch Fitness; Trader Joe's; Mariash Lowther Wealth Management; Blalock Walters; Wilde Insurance Services; Cooper Creek Dental; Sarasota Orthopedic Associates; Gold Coast Eagle Distributing; Publix Super Markets; Holiday Inn at Lido Beach; Amanda Myers-Campbell; Subway; Canandaigua National Bank & Trust; ER2YOU; Keller Williams On The Water, Sarasota; Koala Tee; Molly’s!-Chic & Unique Boutique; Tropicana Products Inc.; Deep Sea Diner; Empower Therapeutics; FL State Massage Therapy Assn.; Starbucks; X30 Fit Bootcamp; Joan L. Osgood, LMT; Costco; Biofreeze; Pineapple Yoga and Mantra Fitness-Sarasota.
Overall male winner: Alex Milne, age 27, time: 16:16
Overall female winner: Heather Butcher, age 44, time: 19:22
1-mile fun run/walk winners:
Male winner: Luke Helmuth, age 11, time: 7:02
Female winner: Hannah Daniel, age 16, time: 7:53
For a complete list of finalized results from each 5K age category visit: www.manasotatrackclub.org and www.accuchiptiming.com
Sea turtle nesting season tips
During sea turtle nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31, please heed the following turtle-friendly tips. Starting early is great too; sometimes the first local sea turtle nests arrive in April.
If you encounter a nesting turtle, remain quiet and observe from a distance.
Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water.
Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
Place trash in its proper place.
Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
Use fireworks on the beach.
Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty. If you witness anyone disturbing a turtle or find an injured or disoriented hatchling or adult, please notify agents with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), the local sheriff’s department, and/or Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Program at 388-4331. If you find a dead or injured sea turtle contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program at 988-0212.