ANNA MARIA ISLAND – As turtle nesting season begins, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring (AMITW) declared May 1 as Suzi Fox Day to honor the legacy of its former executive director.
May 1 is the official start of sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island, although the first turtle nest was laid in April this year. The season ends on Oct. 31.
“Suzi’s passion for protecting sea turtles enriched the community conservation efforts of AMITW for over 30 years and we dedicate this sea turtle nesting season to her,” Turtle Watch Director Kristen Mazzarella said.
“As part of our efforts to honor Suzi, we are renaming our Adopt-a-Nest Program in her memory,” Mazzarella said.
The “Suzi L. Fox Adopt-a-Nest” program allows donors to symbolically adopt a sea turtle nest laid on Island beaches. Proceeds from the program help Turtle Watch protect sea turtles and provide education and outreach.
A plaque intended to be placed on a nest laid on May 1 says in part, “In Loving Memory of Suzi L. Fox. Her legacy continues as the Sea Turtles and Shorebirds return to AMI.”
“Only the turtles know which nest it will be,” Mazzarella said.
For the safety of the nest and hatchlings, AMITW does not disclose the nesting dates or locations of nests, Mazzarella said.
May 1 was also proclaimed “Suzi Fox Day” in the city of Bradenton Beach.
The Bradenton Beach City Commission issued the proclamation in January to honor Fox, who served as Turtle Watch director until her death on Sept. 30, 2022.
Under Fox’s directorship, the organization grew.
“In three decades, we monitored 7,339 turtle activities, protected 4,454 nests, 301,694 turtle eggs, and watched 271,680 hatchlings depart to become a future generation of loggerheads that will return to the region as they reach maturity,” according to the Turtle Watch website.
Sea turtles on the Island broke both nesting and hatchling records in 2022.