Beach Steward Sea Turtle Washback Program
A Science-Based Citizen Volunteer Program

Baby sea turtleDo you walk the beach every day in search of treasures? Are you a passionate walker that picks up trash? Then you are
the perfect candidate to be a volunteer for the Beach Steward Program!

St. Johns County Seeking Volunteers for Beach Steward Program – St. Johns County is seeking volunteers to walk our beaches in all-weather conditions to remove debris and survey the wrack line (line of seaweed) for washback sea turtles. A washback sea turtle is a post-hatchling sea turtle slightly bigger than a hatchling, as it has already left its nest and traveled the ocean. Storms and certain wind conditions from August through November can push washback turtles back onto the beach. For more information, review the Beach Steward program and training information below.

Quick Volunteer Program Overview

Season is from July 1 to November 30

This program calls for volunteers to walk the beaches of St. Johns County to remove marine related beach debris and to survey the wrack line (line of seaweed) for washback sea turtles. A washback is a post hatchling sea turtle that is slightly larger than a hatchling as it has left the nest and has been traveling the ocean. Once the sea turtles hatch from their nests they swim in search of a large mass of seaweed where they find refuge and protection from predators. They forage here for an unknown amount of time while the seaweed floats with the currents and tides. Sometimes storms and high tide events from August through November push marine debris, the mass of seaweed and sometimes washbacks back onto the beach. They are extremely tired, dehydrated and in need medical attention.

Sea turtles are listed as an endangered species so this volunteer program is authorized and permitted through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and coordinated through the efforts of a Volunteer Coordinator, Zone Captain and several dedicated volunteers. It is necessary to have a flexible schedule to be a Zone Captain as they are responsible for coordinating volunteers through a phone tree system, completing data sheets, coordinating transport of washbacks, as well as being responsible for ensuring the volunteers have the tools for a successful survey (survey tools are provided by St. Johns County).

St. Johns County is grateful to the network of volunteers that make this program successful.

Annual Volunteer Training

Successful implementation of the Beach Steward program requires coordination, teamwork, and consistency by all involved in marine turtle protection. Volunteers are required to complete the following:

Additional Information

  • Volunteers must possess a valid Florida Driver's License and pass a background screening.
  • Commit to routine surveys in addition to the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month (September to November) for beach cleanups.
  • Children under 18 are welcome to volunteer but they must be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
  • Volunteer/community service hours can be accounted for with this program.

Visit the Washback Toolkit page to learn more.