Sea turtle populations have been seriously reduced worldwide through a number of human influences. Overdeveloped coastal areas have reduced natural nesting habitats. Capture of adult turtles for eggs, meat, leather, and tortoise shell has decreased breeding populations. Incidental capture of adults in fishing nets and shrimp trawls has brought one species, the Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), right to the brink of extinction. For these reasons all sea turtle species are protected.
Sea turtles are protected through Florida Statues, Chapter 370, and by the United States Endangered Species Act of 1973. Of these species that nest on Broward's beaches, Green, Leatherback and Hawksbill sea turtle are listed officially as endangered and the Florida population of Loggerhead sea turtles are considered threatened. Briefly, these laws state that: "No person may take, harass, harm, pursue, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or attempts to engage in any such conduct to marine turtles, turtle nest, and/or turtle eggs."
Any person who knowingly violates any provision of the act may be assessed civil penalties up to $25,000 or criminal penalty up to $100,000 and up to one year imprisonment.
Overall, only 1 in 1,000 to 10,000 sea turtles will live to maturity. Major predators after nest emergence are birds and fish.
NSU Oceanographic Center supplies the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program with contract employees.
The Mission of the Oceanographic Center is to carry out innovative, basic and applied research and to provide high-quality graduate and undergraduate education in a broad range of marine science and related disciplines.