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 or are a passionate walker that picks up trash? Then you are the perfect candidate to be a volunteer for the Sea Turtle Beach Steward Program.

Annual HCP 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 Beach Steward program orientation and attend a mock beach survey training session. Training will include Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and/or Incidental Take Permit (ITP) updates, and any other information SJC needs to provide for successful implementation of the HCP, compliance with the ITP and the Beach Steward volunteer program.

Step One: Complete your orientation: Annual HCP Orientation

Step Two: When you are done take this fun Refresher Quiz.  
It will submit your results and records your completion of orientation.

Step Three: Complete a Volunteer Application. Bring to beach survey training.

Step Four: Attend beach survey training*.Pre-registration not required

  • August 14, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Surfside Beachfront Park, 3070 Coastal Highway.
  • August 23, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Butler Beachfront Park, 5860 A1A South.
  • August 28, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at South Ponte Vedra Recreation Area, 2993 S. Ponte Vedra Blvd.

*Please bring a hardcopy of your volunteer application to beach survey training.

Visit the Washback Toolkit page to learn more.

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.

Additional Information

  1. Volunteers must possess a valid Florida Driver's License and pass a background screening.
  2. Volunteers are required to commit to the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month (September – November) beach cleanups and on call in response to storms.
  3. Children under 18 are welcome to volunteer but they must be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
  4. Volunteer/community service hours can be accounted for with this program.


Interested in volunteering? To find out more about the Washback Volunteer Program, please visit our Toolkit page or call our volunteer hotline at (904) 209-0331 x7.