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Town slated to hatch new turtle ordinance

MELISSA REID
Associate Publisher
mreid@lbknews.com

At the Monday, May 16 workshop, town commissioners will for the third time consider the revised Marine Turtle Ordinance.

At stake is the ability for the town to receive permitting for any future beach renourishments.

According to Mote Marine’s data count, Longboat Key has the highest number of sea turtle disorientations in Sarasota County.

Town Manager Dave Bullock said, “We brought this ordinance forward after permitting the beach when the regulatory agencies said our ordinance is inconsistent with other municipalities and has a higher number of disorientations.”

Several weeks ago, Bullock told Longboat Key News that both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) expressed concern during permitting of the three current beach renourishment projects that are taking place now and will continue into the summer months during turtle nesting season which begins May 1 and continues through Oct 31.

Part of the project requirement is to remove sea turtle nests that are in the beach construction zone and relocate them to another part of the island.

According to FWC Biological Administrator Robbin Trindell, the state was concerned that the nests that needed to be moved, may be relocated to areas where the lighting was not conducive to nesting conditions. For that reason, Bullock committed to bringing the commission a revised ordinance that would take measures to reduce the number of sea turtle disorientations.

Trindell said that if the town does not follow through on the new ordinance and the high level of disorientations continue, “There could be significant ramifications.”

“It can affect the ability for the community to have a nourished beach. When you elevate the beach in a renourishment project, you create additional impact on the nesting environment. That is something state and federal agencies have to consider: are you going to cause harm?” said Trindell.

Trindell said that one beach project was held up for a year in Panama City because the community did not have a strong ordinance protecting turtles and the laws were not being enforced. She pointed out that the town is using public money for its beach project and in creating new beach, they are creating additional turtle habitat. Trindell said the town needs to, “follow through on its commitment to address the ordinance.”

Bullock says, “It wasn’t a formal condition of the permit, but they took our word that we would change our ordinance.”

Bullock also adds that the current town ordinance for sea turtles is old and that, “We are not breaking new ground in this ordinance, it puts us in the middle of the pack and brings up to date our ordinance which is now 20 years old.”

Under the old ordinance, sea turtle lighting is the primary focus, however in the new ordinance not only are low lighting measures going to be more stringent, but any objects such as beach chairs will have to be removed at night so the turtles do not become ensnared in them or disoriented.

“It is now legal to leave beach chairs and other belongings on the beach; this (revised ordinance) would change that. You would have to walk it (beach chairs) back and take it away. That too, is pretty common in other municipalities,” said Bullock. “If you look at other communities’ experiences, overwhelmingly people learned that they could come into compliance and the turtles would be better off by simply turning out the lights or closing the blinds.”

If the commission reaches consensus at the Monday, May 16 workshop at 1 p.m., the ordinance will go to the next regular commission meeting and require two readings.

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Longboat Key News

2 Responses for “Town slated to hatch new turtle ordinance”

  1. Mike William says:

    I agree with all protection of wildlife but it appears LBK has missed the boat when it comes to humans. You receive public tax dollars, federal and state for the replenishment etc of your beach and expect that you continue to do so. Yet you do very little to allow for public access of your beach. The entire beach from one end to another is public but you would never know it! You have one public beach at one end of the island and a couple of mini entrances with parking for possibly four vehicles each, for the remainder. If public funds are allowed to pay for replenishment of “public” beaches alongside publicly used facilities, hotels, estate and other homes, then the “public” whose funds are being used, should be allowed use these beach without major limitation. I applaud protection for the turtles but believe in the protection of the rights of my fellow man which are being dismissed at present by LBK. If I am wrong in my thinking, then I would love a response on this issue to be addressed here publicly.

  2. Howard Gilbert says:

    As Long as we are addressing this profound turtle disorientation tragedy maybe we could address the lack of public toilets or even porta-potty facilities for the humans who use these beaches and guard these turtles.

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