The Sea Turtle Preservation Society supports the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN) which was formally established by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service in the southeastern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico in 1980. The STSSN has since spread to encompass the entire east and gulf coasts of the U.S., from Maine through Texas, as well as parts of the Caribbean.
A stranding occurs when sea turtles swim or float into shore and become “beached” or stuck in shallow water. Salvage efforts refer to sea turtles that are dead. When a sea turtle becomes stranded, individuals from the general public may notice it on one of our beaches first and contact the STPS using its emergency number, (321) 206-0646. Additionally, stranding calls are received at our Turtle House during office hours. STPS then activates its Stranding Team effort. In 2011, STPS introduced a modern contact system that relays messages direct to a team member’s individual phone for emergency events.
The Stranding Team is on call 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to rescue and salvage the endangered and threatened sea turtles. There are over 300 miles of shoreline in Brevard County when the shores of the Indian River, Banana River, and Mosquito Lagoons are included. All volunteers working with sea turtles are required to be named on a permit issued by the federal and/or state governments.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issues this kind of permit to organizations with a named, qualified person, (referred to as the “primary permit holder”) and can have up to 24 qualified individuals named on the permit to assist with the activities. The permit identifies specific activities that can be conducted by the individuals named on the permit. Volunteers identified on the permit must complete a bi-annual training class held by a Stranding Coordinator from FWC, STPS transport training, and the named permit holder must also attend additional training/meeting sessions. All FWC permits expire at the end of each calendar year.
A stranding team member responds to the call quickly in the case of a live animal or as soon as they can for a deceased turtle. A live animal is evaluated by a stranding volunteer on the spot and transported to a rehabilitation facility designated by FWC. Should the turtle be dead, then the volunteer will photograph, measure, look for possible causes of death and complete a report form for FWC and the review of STSSN researchers.
A program, Sea Turtle Emergency Rescue Program (STERP), was designed for the specific problem of post-hatchlings washed back by fall storms and is permitted under the Stranding Marine Turtle Permit.