Last Modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 6:56 p.m.
Keep hatchlings in the dark
Sea turtles' survival depends on coastal residents and visitors
Even before the sea turtle hatchlings emerge from the sand, survival is an iffy prospect.
Just getting out of their 2-foot-deep nest -- crowded with up to 100 hatchlings, and sometimes raided beforehand by poachers -- is tough. Then the newborns must find the Gulf of Mexico, running the gantlet of sand (on clumsy flippers) as predators lurk.
The 2-inch-long hatchlings are so small, it takes all their might to crawl around an errant beach chair, or climb out of the ravine left by a human footprint.
Drawn instinctively toward light, they can be fatally misled toward land by glare from the street or beachfront homes.
Misdirected artificial light is so dangerous to sea turtles -- protected under the federal Endangered Species Act -- that local governments have long had ordinances designed to curtail it during the May-through-October nesting season.
These ordinances can't do the job, however, if people don't comply with them.
Just in the past month, light-disoriented hatchlings were reported by volunteers at numerous nests on beaches stretching from Venice to Longboat Key.
Hundreds of hatchlings were affected, according to a story Tuesday by the Herald-Tribune's Kate Spinner.
The high number is puzzling, troubling and depressing.
Beach lighting restrictions have been on the books for years and are well publicized. Seaside property owners have had enough time to make the modest changes required by law. By now, the problem should be rare on local beaches, but the numbers indicate it is not. Why?
Many homeowners and businesses have cooperated eagerly with sea turtle protection efforts. Some beachfront hotels have joined the cause, reminding guests to close their curtains after sunset. Volunteer organizations and Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory have advanced sea turtle science, providing useful environmental advice.
And, over the past decade, city and county governments have improved sea turtle lighting compliance on public sands.
Siesta Beach is one example. The parking lot now stays dark after sunset, with pavilion lighting kept low. Vegetation shields the sand from too much illumination. Many street lamps are hooded to contain glare.
These examples demonstrate that beach light pollution is not insurmountable. Indeed, complying with the ordinances -- and helping a threatened animal avoid extinction -- is quite feasible.
Clearly, some coastal residents -- particularly the hard-working sea turtle volunteers -- do their part.
The others, too ignorant or lazy to turn off a light switch to help out struggling marine life, don't deserve the privilege of our stunning beaches.
This story appeared in print on page A8
The reaction of sarasotian readers:
Oh yes, I'm certain, the measly fines imposed the homeowners will have an impact on these very homeowners which reside in these multi-million dollar McMansions. Just as the measly 1,000 - 1,500 fines imposed on homeowners who are caught cutting down the mangroves on Siesta who make 2-5,000.000,000 per year...Sure it will. I say, shoot out their floodlights at night time from a boat. Put out every single light that's lit from Key West to Panama City you see. Now that will get results and may very well, save a sea turtle from extintsion!
- rubble says...
August 5, 2009 3:32:03 pm
There's a condo just north of Turtle Beach, how ironic, that keeps it's lights on. All of their neighbors have shielded or turned there's off. This one refuses.
I and several other folks have gone up and asked them but they go off on a rant about how dangerous it is and that they fear for their life when the lights are off.
They won't even consider the turtle safe light bulbs.
They've worked hard and saved all their life to get a condo on the beach in their retirement but have little respect for the beach and it's inhabitants once they get there. It's sad.
- Advocate2you says...
August 5, 2009 5:34:42 pm
Rubble, it's so very sad the lack of respect to wildlife these morons have. You know, these are the very homeowners who feel they "Own" the beach, yet they are the very ones who call to complain about seaweed being on the beach and want it cleaned up by the labor of Sarasota County Employees who's wages are paid by the very taxes these homeowners are trying to kick off "their" beach.... Go figure sarasotians out will ya? Say Rubble, do me a faovr and post these morons address on the blg so we can find out who they are. I will be the first one to turn them in. believe me, "affraid for their lives"... ha.. what a joke! Me and everyone's sister knows these homes are protected by the Sheriff Department and the Sheriff Dept. cruises past these precious homes every twenty minutes. Please, post their addresses who ever has lights on. Lets blast these people all over the media!!!!!
- harleygal0419 says...
August 5, 2009 7:29:11 pm
I am one of the Mote volunteers who walk the beach early in the morning looking for sea turtles that have nested.. it amazes me how many condo's on Siesta Key leave beach chairs and other trash out on the beach...Part of our duty when on patrol is to take pictures and report all the beach violations....but it always seems to do no good....I won't mention condo names, but one in particular ALWAYS has over 20 beach chairs strewn about the beach... obviously they are not getting fined.. or not getting fined big enough...I patroled the beach the day after July 4th and was amazed at the mess.....the endangered sea turtles do not have a holiday... but there was no way they could come up and nest with the mess that was left.. There are many times I see adult foot prints left in the middle of the roped off turtle nest, even when there is the "federal notice tag" stuck on the stakes... people are so stupid and inconsiderate of our wildlife!!! I think if the fines and punishments were harsher, this wouldn't be happening.
- Laura Sperling says...
August 6, 2009 9:31:54 am
Provide me the names and addresses of these condos and i will contact some.
- squalterman says...
August 6, 2009 9:39:20 am
Go get 'em, Laura! Why on earth does anyone live on the beach if they don't care about the creatures that God put there? It makes no sense. They don't deserve to be there, and they're clearly not happy in a natural location, so get the hell out! Go buy a bargain condo and move away from any wildlife! A co-worker once told me about a neighbor who would shoot at a bird that was "bothering him with all the squawking". They lived on a lake. HELLO? Where is your brain? Why are you in Florida to begin with? Why the hell are you living on a LAKE, for God's sake? Stupidity abounds. Just GO AWAY, PLEASE! ASAP! You don't deserve to be here! (These are probably the same morons who drive 45 in the left lane and can't figure out why everybody keeps "weaving in and out of lanes".)
Can you tell this has me riled?
- mckayd94 says...
August 6, 2009 10:59:42 am
Everyone of you think you are doing a great service. But you are ALL the biggest hypocrites ever!
Go out and save turtles if it makes you feel good. But DON'T go blasting home/condo owners. Because you are not any better!
- squalterman says...
August 6, 2009 11:06:44 am
This makes no sense without clarification. What are you talking about? Please explain, why it is unreasonable to expect residents to follow the law by taking simple, common-sense measures?
- rubble says...
August 6, 2009 11:12:47 am
mckay like to throw that around a lot. He thinks that since all of us moved into a home on property that once was wild, we have no right to complain.Of course, this argument would go back to the dawn of man. But then that would include him.
Yes, we have displaced habitat. For that we are all guilty. However, there is something to the point of do no further harm.
- mckayd94 says...
August 6, 2009 11:17:54 am
I have explained this in other similar threads.
Look in the mirror squalterman. Where do you live? What was there before you? I'll tell you....TREES AND WILDLIFE! How many trees were cut down and to build your house/condo/apartment??? How much wildlife was displaced because YOU had to live were you do?
Like I said. Go save turtles if it makes you feel good. But do it and shut up about it. Because you have done harm to the environment too. Which gives you no right to criticize anyone else.