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Tighter turtle rules pass

MELISSA REID
Associate Publisher
mreid@lbknews.com

On Tuesday night, after a scheduled afternoon discussion, the town commission passed the newer and less permissive sea turtle ordinance.

In a 6-1 vote, commissioners adopted the ordinance that will require exterior lighting and interior lighting not reach the beach as well as the removal of all beach furniture and obstacles.

Added to the ordinance at the meeting was that violations of the ordinance would be notified in writing as well as the remedies to solve the violation. Under the new ordinance property owners would also have the right to seek a variance from the town commission if they can show that a hardship exists on the property that precludes them from coming into compliance in the time allotted under the code.

According to Town Manager Dave Bullock, Code Enforcement Officer Chris Elbon will immediately start talking to property owners and let them know if a possible violation exists. But according to the new ordinance, existing properties have six months from the date of adoption to come into compliance.

The reason for the new, more stringent ordinance is the fact that the town has the highest number of sea turtle strandings in the area, and lack of an effort to change the ordinance would result in the inability to receive permits for any future beach renourishment projects. According to Mote Marine’s data count, Longboat Key has the highest number of sea turtle disorientations in Sarasota County.

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.

Bullock said, “Because we brought this ordinance forward in permitting the beach, the regulatory agencies said our ordinance is inconsistent with other municipalities and has a higher number of disorientations.”

Bullock said there should be “immediate improvement” of the current high rate of sea turtle disorientations.

 

High number of hatchling disorientations

Turtle nesting season during a beach renourishment project has made Mote Volunteers and Longboat Key Turtle Watch volunteers have to work overtime to remove nests that are in the danger zone where sand is being placed, and move them to one of two safety zones where there will be no sand added to the beach this season.

According to Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon, over half of the sea turtle nests that have been relocated from the beach renourishment areas to the relocation zones that are not being renourished, have been disoriented. To date, Mote Marine listed 814 nests on Longboat Key and have relocated 125 nests from the beach renourishment areas.

Seamon said raccoons at the south end of Longboat Key have also been a problem for sea turtle eggs, as 101 nests have been depredated on the Sarasota County portion of Longboat Key.

Residents who want to know more about the new turtle lighting ordinance or if they wish to have their property evaluated to see if there is a possible violation they can call Town Hall at 316-1999.

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