Turtles continue to lose way on Longboat Key beaches

Associate Publisher

Hatchlings know that delicious mollusks and jellyfish await if they move to the life-giving ocean. If lights from inside homes, condominiums or resorts on the beach confound the hatchlings, however, they mistakenly move away from the Gulf and in some cases, toward swimming pools.

According to Mote Marine’s Lead Technician for Longboat Key Jaime Neill, the number of disoriented nests as of Aug. 4 were: 70 hatched nests out of a total of 193 hatched nests; or 36 percent. Disorientations occur when sea turtle hatchlings do not go toward the Gulf but instead go landward, typically toward light sources.

Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon has said that hatchlings have been found in swimming pools of condominiums with these lighting issues at night. Although the condominiums have already worked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and reduced the interior lights in the lobby and parking garage, Seamon says the light is still bright on the beach.

“We had a public nest opening at this location last night, 112 people watched our excavation. Many asked why this new building was allowed to have such bright lights. I did explain the problem was being worked on and we all hope to have it solved before the two nests that are still here hatch out. We have already had their nests in the area have hatchlings crawl toward these lights and end up in their pool,” says Seamon.

She said that extraneous lighting on the beaches is an ongoing issue, particularly in areas where the sea turtle nests are being relocated from the beach renourishment project. The areas where the nests are being relocated are supposed to be safe zones, but are particularly prone to lighting issues this year, said Seamon.

The town passed a more strict ordinance in July, but until the ordinance takes effect in six months, the town is focused on educating the public about lighting on the beach rather than ordinance enforcement.

In addition to not walking on the beach with flashlights, Mote Marine advises using turtle friendly lighting for property owners on the beach. The FWC website offers the following suggestions:

• Turn off unnecessary lights. Don’t use decorative lighting (such as runner lights or uplighting of vegetation) in areas that are visible from the beach and permanently remove, disable, or turn off fixtures that cannot be modified in any other way.

• Shield the light source.

• Light sockets with an exposed light source (such as plain bulbs) should be replaced with fixtures that are specially made to recess and/or the light source should be shielded.

• Replace fixtures that scatter light in all directions

• Replace lights on poles with low profile, low-level lamps so that the light source and reflected light are not visible from the beach.

• Replace incandescent, fluorescent, and high intensity lighting with the lowest wattage low-pressure sodium vapor lighting or replace white incandescent bulbs with the yellow “bug” light variety of 25 watts or less for incandescent and 9 watts or less for compact fluorescent.  The best technology available for sea turtle friendly lighting is a Red or Amber LED.

• Plant or improve vegetation buffers

• Use shielded motion detector lights for lighting.

• To reduce spillover from indoor lighting move light fixtures away from windows, apply window tint that meets the 45 percent inside to outside transmittance standards for tinted glass or use window treatments.

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