Funded by a portion of revenues from Florida’s sea turtle specialty license plate, the grants program distributes over $300,000 each year to support sea turtle research, conservation and education programs throughout Florida.
Florida state Senator Rod Smith and Representatives Dave Murzin and Stan Mayfield sponsored bills that transfer administrative responsibility for the grants program from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) to the private CCC. The new law, which took affect July 1, received unanimous support in both chambers of the Florida legislature and was signed by Governor Jeb Bush.
CCC designed and sponsored the establishment of the sea turtle license plate in 1997 by presenting state lawmakers with over 10,000 petitions and a marketing plan for the new tag. The turtle tag is now one of the most popular specialty plates in Florida, raising over $1 million annually.
“Over 90 percent of all the sea turtle nesting in the United States takes place in Florida,” said CCC Executive Director David Godfrey. “We established the tag to provide a permanent funding source for turtle research and protection programs being conducted by State biologists and the many independent turtle protection groups working in Florida.”
All monies generated by the tag must by law go to support sea turtle protection in Florida. Three sea turtle species regularly nest on Florida beaches, and each is considered either endangered or threatened.
Seventy-percent of the funding goes to the FWCC’s Florida Marine Research Institute and the Bureau of Protected Species to support research and management activities related to sea turtles.
The remaining 30 percent of revenue now will be distributed to CCC, which will then redistribute the funding through a competitive grants program supporting turtle projects that benefit Florida sea turtles. With nearly $300,000 to distribute annually, the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program is one of the world’s largest sources of funding for sea turtle research and protection.
“The grants program provides a fair method of redistributing funds from the turtle tag back to the local level,” said Godfrey. “By privatizing the management of the program, CCC will be able to award grants faster and cheaper by streamlining the way grants are reviewed and managed.”
During the upcoming fiscal year, CCC will award 23 grants totaling about $275,000. Projects chosen for funding were selected in March by the Grant Selection Committee. The largest grant of $30,910 was awarded to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida for research into the behavior and migration patterns of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley turtle in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands.