Beach furniture ensnares nesting turtles

Mote Marine Laboratory found evidence that two nesting sea turtles dragged beach furniture caught on their upper shells during the past week on Longboat Key — a reminder that southwest Floridians should remove beach furniture at night to protect these threatened and endangered reptiles.

Loggerhead sea turtle tracks leading beneath a beach chair, with lines showing the chair had been dragged several feet, were reported July 9 by Mote scientists and volunteers from the Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which monitors the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key under Mote’s state permit. Fortunately, the turtle left the chair behind.

In a less lucky case discovered July 6 on Longboat Key, Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol found loggerhead tracks bordered by draglines consistent with a beach chair entanglement, leading into the ocean. Mote scientists don’t know what happened to that turtle.

“We are quite concerned because we don’t know if that turtle was able to free itself; anything that impedes a turtle’s ability to swim and surface to breathe could be a serious problem,” said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program.


Resident upset by disregard

One Longboat Key resident, Betsy Sillars, said she is angered by some beachgoers lack of regard for nesting turtles.

Sillars wrote Bullock, “I saw the story on the news about the visitors that left all their belongings on the beach at Longboat. This saddens and angers me that people are uneducated and/or don’t care about our marine life. I surely hope that your Code Enforcement issued them a stiff fine! There must be a consequence for these offenses.”

Sillers said she has witnessed herself lighting violations.

“While walking the beach Friday night, I noticed several lights blazing in homes south of Whitney Beach. I surely hope that these people are given a reminder about ‘Lights out.’”

Bullock wrote back a detailed report on the Town’s efforts to date to gain compliance with the new turtle regulations on Longboat Key.

Bullock’s response is a follows:

“Our first effort is always in education so that residents and visitors are aware of the requirements. Once a potential violation is found, the violator always must be given the opportunity to cure the violation. In most cases, that is what happens. If it is not cured, the case is brought through the code enforcement process. A person can cure the violation any time in the process.

The Code enforcement Officer (CEO) began an educational campaign in November of 2016. This was comprised of personally visiting every condominium property along the beach. If the manager or designee was present they were provided educational brochures.

In February 2017 CEO visited each beachfront and gulf view property containing a single-family residence and provided an educational brochure along with the Towns Letter explaining the new ordinance. If they were not home, a copy was mailed to the LBK address along with any secondary address listed for the property. CEO also met with RVA, Lighthouse management, and Florida Vacation Connection and provided a hard copy along with an electronic version so they could send to their renters.

In April 2017, the Town sponsored an educational sea turtle workshop put on by the Sea Turtle Conservancy. At the end, the assistant TM, Mike Hein, spoke further about the Towns new ordinance and introduced myself and Elbon as contacts for further information if needed.

Town officials (Mike Hein, Juan Florensa, Frank Rubino, and Chris Elbon) also conducted several educational power point presentations regarding the new ordinance at L’Ambiance, Zota, Water Club Condominium, and Privateer South with management and residents.”


Breakdown of efforts

The following is a breakdown of the efforts made to date towards enforcing Turtle Lighting and Beach obstructions for the 2017 Turtle Season.

• Code Officer performed 12 nighttime inspections.

• Ten Beach Obstructions for items not permanently secured. (Chairs, umbrellas, etc.) All 10 cases are closed with compliance, 7 were issued 24 hour tags; 1 issued notice of violation; 2 resulted in written cases.

• Eleven cases were opened for lighting violations and issued a courtesy notice. 6 were closed with voluntary compliance; 3 are active and we are working with property owners/ managers to bring into compliance; 2 didn’t comply and were issued a Notice of Violation.

• Lighting survey for beach project was conducted the beginning of May per permit requirement. CEO documented 70 cases where lights were observed from the beach. Sixty-four first class letters were sent to physical address and secondary listed address with an educational brochure and letter from the Town. Six streetlights were noted and an email was sent to Public Works to contact FP&L.

• One hundred seventy four email complaints on lighting and furniture from Turtle Watch and other volunteers, residents, and visitors. Thirty-five complaints on 12 properties found in violation and Code Enforcement initiated action. (9 courtesy notices for lighting violation, 1 courtesy notice for furniture violation, 2 Notices of violation for lighting violation, and 2 properties tagged for furniture. The remaining 139 email complaints were unsubstantiated due to insufficient information or found not in violation. Of the 174 email complaints, all email complaints on a property with a real property owner/manager resulted in Code Enforcement contacting the property owner/manager and informing of the complaint.

• If you spot an entangled sea turtle, or any stranded, distressed or deceased sea turtle or marine mammal in Sarasota or Manatee counties, call Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program — a 24-hour response service — at(941) 988-0212.  Elsewhere in Florida, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1 (888) 404-FWCC (3922).

Southwest Florida’s most common sea turtle species nest at night. Furniture left on the beach at night presents an obstacle to nesting turtles and their babies, called hatchlings. Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program monitors 35 miles of beaches from Longboat Key through Venice each day of nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31. Prior to the past week, Mote has reported a couple of cases where turtles dragged beach furniture in the past few years, along with numerous other interactions, such as turtles hitting or becoming stuck underneath beach furniture.

Local ordinances require that temporary structures (including beach furniture) be removed from the beach or stored as close to the dune line as possible without impacting the dune or native vegetation from 11 p.m.-5 a.m. during nesting season on Longboat Key, and removed or stored in county-designated areas from sunset to sunrise on other local beaches covered by Sarasota County’s Marine Turtle Protection Code. This is critically important, given the increased numbers of nesting turtles visiting our beaches in recent years.


Turtle-friendly tips:

Beach furniture, trash and other obstacles can impede sea turtles and their young. Also, light from waterfront properties can disorient sea turtles, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea.

Here are some “do and don’t” tips to keep our beaches turtle-friendly:


• Stay away from sea turtle nests marked with yellow stakes and tape, and seabird nesting zones that are bounded by ropes.

• Remain quiet and observe from a distance if you see a nesting sea turtle or hatchlings.

• Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.

• Close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach.

• Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.



• Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.

• Use flashlights, headlamps or fishing lamps on the beach.

• Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.

• Use fireworks on the beach.

• Walk dogs on any Sarasota County beach other than Brohard Paw Park in Venice. There, dogs must be leashed or under voice control, according to county ordinances.





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Longboat Key News

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