Date: November 20, 2002
Contact: Gary Appelson
Phone: (325) 373-6441
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – The Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, has sent a letter to Governor Jeb Bush requesting that he take “all possible steps” to protect Florida’s green sea turtles and the nearshore reef habitats adjacent to the Florida coastline that the turtles utilize for foraging and resting. The letter draws specific attention to the potential harmful impacts to the nearshore reefs resulting from ongoing and planned beach nourishment projects in Florida. The letter was copied to President Bush, David Struhs, the Director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.
As stated in the letter, “Florida and Costa Rica share the same population of endangered sea turtles. Scientific studies show that many green turtles hatched at Tortuguero, Costa Rica, spend their juvenile life-stage in nearshore Florida waters.” Researchers with the University of Central Florida have been studying the sea turtles that congregate on the nearshore reefs south of Sebastian Inlet in Indian River County. In recent years genetic analysis has shown that these juvenile sea turtles come from throughout the Caribbean and Atlantic to forage on the abundant green algae that grows on the reefs. A large percentage of these immature turtles have been genetically linked to the sea turtle nesting beaches at Tortuguero. Genetic research has shown that the quarter sized hatchlings leave the Costa Rican beaches they were born on and travel the ocean currents to distant foraging grounds. When they are about dinner plate size and larger they hone in on the algal rich reefs along Florida’s southeast Atlantic shoreline to forage and grow. Eventually they return to Costa Rican beaches to begin the cycle again. In September of this year this linkage between the two countries was reconfirmed for the first time through a “tag return” when a juvenile green sea turtle caught and tagged in 1986 just offshore of Fort Lauderdale was recorded nesting on Tortuguero’s beaches.
Costa Rica is a world leader in conservation and habitat protection. In his letter Minister Rodriguez asserts, “My Ministry dedicates considerable funding each year to sea turtle conservation.” The sea turtle nesting beaches and the surrounding rain forests support a thriving ecotourism industry. In closing the Minister asks that Governor Bush “take all possible steps to ensure that our shared sea turtles are adequately considered and safeguarded.”
David Godfrey, the Executive Director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), the worlds oldest sea turtle conservation organization, declared, “It is only fitting that Costa Rica, a world leader in conservation, would reach out to Florida in order to protect these magnificent animals. International cooperation is the only way to ensure the protection of these highly migratory animals.” Sebastian Troeng, the Scientific Director of the biological research station operated by CCC in Tortuguero said, “We are extremely pleased and excited with the possibility that the two countries may work together to protect one of the world largest populations of green turtles.”