UK family helps protect sea turtles

ENGLEWOOD — Efforts by the Coastal Wildlife Club and other conservationists are helping to protect nesting sea turtles, which suffered a huge blow in late June when Tropical Storm Debby washed away most of the season’s nests, along with hundreds of thousands of turtle eggs.

For one English family, sea turtle conservation is a family tradition and part of a hidden Florida experience.

Three generations of the Graham family annually visit Englewood from the United Kingdom.

“My wife Margaret and I started coming out to Englewood in 1986, and we come about twice a year,” Peter Graham said. “It was about six or seven years ago before we came out to the (Stump Pass) beach, where we met Wilma (Katz) and kept in touch.”

Katz is vice president of the Coastal Wildlife Club, whose volunteers daily patrol local beaches monitoring sea turtle nests during nesting season.

The retired Peter brought his son, Cal, his wife Jacqui, and his grandson, Scott, to share in the experience, and it since has become an annual family tradition.

“Generally when we’re out on the beach, it’s a family thing wandering around,” Cal said. “We see this patrol coming. Usually we just have a quick chat with them, and they might tell us where they would be working next, because there are so many nests up and down the beach. You never know what’s coming out next.”

Jacqui credits Katz’s efforts to educate her son, Scott, as a major reason why the family makes frequent visits to this area.

“She’s shown Scott what they do since he was small,” she said. “She helps the turtles get to the sea, counting the eggs, and she also sent him some things for school in England so he can do a project. It’s because she got Scott more involved that we got more involved.”

“(Zoé Bass, president of CWC, and Katz) are so dedicated to the turtles,” said Norma Jean Zvosec of Englewood, a retired banker and nine-year volunteer. “… Because of their dedication, it rubs offonto the volunteers.”

The Grahams sometimes find themselves helping.

“Sometimes we’re involved three or four times,” Cal said. “We’re generally here for a two-week period. We’ve done it about maybe half a dozen times. It’s not something we come to specifically do.”

More families are including ecotourism in their vacations, tourism officials say. For the Graham family, it goes beyond the typical Florida vacation.

“We came here because of our parents,” Cal said. “Everybody thinks about coming to Florida to see… Disney. Our thing is to not just do that. It’s a different type of vacation altogether …”

The Grahams may cut their vacation plans short this year because of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Katz says not much can be done for the turtle nests for the coming storm, but numbers are still up for this area, the Sun previously reported, despite the many nests affected by Tropical Storm Debby.

Copyright 2012 Sun Newspapers

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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