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City issues guidelines for residents, visitors for sea turtle nesting season

By Staff | Apr 30, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED The city of Sanibel has “After 9, it’s turtle time” window clings, light switch stickers, elevator decals and pins available for residences and businesses.

With the start of sea turtle nesting season, the city of Sanibel and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is asking the public to do its part to protect the threatened and endangered species.

On Sanibel, nesting and hatchling emergence typically occur between May 1 and Oct. 31, although monitoring began on April 15 as per Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission guidelines.

In 2017, a record number of nests were laid on Sanibel for the fourth year in a row. Of the 650 nests, more than 501 hatched. It is estimated that over 43,000 sea turtle hatchlings made it to the ocean.

“We look forward to another successful sea turtle nesting season and hope to uphold Sanibel’s reputation as having one of the darkest and most ‘turtle friendly’ beaches in the state,” city officials reported.

Loggerhead sea turtle nesting is a natural phenomena on the island’s Gulf beaches. The process has happened for centuries and Sanibel’s 11 miles of shoreline have more nesting activity than any other beach in Lee County. Sought by predators and susceptible to dehydration, sea turtle hatchlings have only a one in 1,000 chance of survival. Human activities can further reduce their chances.

The following are some simple guidelines to help ensure the survival of the species:

– Turn off or shield lights near the beaches. Artificial beach lighting can inhibit female sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings. Most beachfront lighting issues can be addressed by turning off all unnecessary lights, repositioning or modifying light fixtures, or closing blinds and drapes.

– Remove furniture and other items from the beach and dune area, when not in use, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Items left on the beach including beach furniture, toys and trash may provide barriers to nesting or result in entanglement and predation of hatchlings.

– Level all sandcastles and fill any holes dug during play. These are fine during the day but may pose additional hazards at night. Please leave the beach as you found it, so that sea turtles and hatchlings are not hindered on their way to nest or to the water.

– Pick up all trash. Sea turtles mistakenly eat debris, especially plastic, which results in death.

– Honor the leash law. All dogs on the beach must be on a leash and not allowed to disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings.

As a reminder, the city’s beachfront lighting standards are applicable and enforced year-round. Gulf-front property owners should make sure that their properties are in compliance with the city’s sea turtle protection ordinances and ensure artificial lighting from the property does not illuminate the beach.

An easy way to test if your property is in compliance is to stand on the beach on a moonless night and look seaward. If you can see your shadow cast towards the water, there is too much light behind you.

“We ask for your continued compliance with city’s sea turtle protection ordinances and remind all residents and visitors that violations of these ordinances may be subject to city, state, and/or federal fines and penalties,” city officials reported.

Violations should be reported immediately to the Sanibel Police Department at 239-472-3111, Sanibel Code Enforcement at 239-472-4136, or the city’s Natural Resources Department at 239-472-3700.

“After 9, it’s turtle time” window clings, light switch stickers, elevator decals and pins are still available. If you would like the educational materials for your home or business, contact the Natural Resources Department at 239-472-3700 or email Joel Caouette at joel.caouette@mysanibel.com.