Anna Maria Island is home to five species of sea turtles. Local conservation group, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, has been helping to protect these turtles for the past 28 years. The non-profit organization is comprised of 82 volunteers who guard the turtle nests and help to educate the public.
During the months of June and July, volunteers offer sea turtle nesting tours. Tours meet on Wednesday mornings at 7 a.m. and leave from the Manatee County Beach. All ages are welcome and activity books and tattoos are provided for children. Excavation tours are conducted three days after each hatch during the months of July and August. Each tour takes about an hour and is free of charge, with donations happily accepted. Please call (248) 982-5600 at least a day in advance to sign up.
The Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring also accepts donations on their website: http://islandturtlewatch.com/get-involved/make-a-donation/ Donations help to buy nesting supplies, transport sick or injured turtles and birds to rehabilitation.
Anna Maria Island has three laws to protect the sea turtles:
1- Parking motor vehicles on nesting habitat is prohibited.
2- No artificial lights that can be seen from nesting beaches (only approved lighting).
3- No trash left on the beach.
The group is also trying to bring awareness to get problem lighting under control. When sea turtle hatchlings emerge, they are drawn to the brightest direction. This is normally towards the reflection on the ocean, but artificial lighting can draw them in the wrong direction, away from the ocean.
If you wish to learn more about sea turtles or would like to help, please visit http://islandturtlewatch.com . The site has great information and helpful links to get you started. All the information about the tours is posted too.