Lights. Camera. Action.
Of course, longtime Longboat Key residents know that from May through October, lights should not be visible on the beach to avoid disorienting loggerhead turtles. Flash photography is a no-no. And, avoid distracting actions if you spot a turtle on the beach.
Although turtles are supposed to avoid “lights, cameras and action”, they’re the inspiration behind a new DVD produced by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch to educate homeowners and condominium officials at beachfront communities about proper turtle lighting.
AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox said that the group decided to produce the DVD to disseminate the information provided at Mote Marine Laboratory’s annual turtle-lighting seminar held last week. The DVD was paid for with a grant from the sea-turtle, specialty-license plate program.
“We show them good lights and bad lights,” Fox said. “The idea behind it was that any permit-holder in the state could reproduce it.”
Turtle-nesting season begins Saturday, May 1 and, according to Fox and officials from Mote and Longboat Key Turtle Watch, the rules are basically the same as they were in past years. Compliance is important because turtle-nesting numbers were down slightly last year, with 216 nests on Longboat Key in 2009 compared to 252 nests in 2008.
All lights that are visible from the beach should be turned off or replaced with low-wavelength lighting that turtles can’t detect. That includes flashlights and fishing lights; drapes should also be closed. Residents should be sure to pick up their trash and also fill in holes on the beach that could entrap hatchlings. And if you encounter a nesting turtle, stay calm.
“If you come across a turtle on the beach, watch from a distance and stay quiet,” said Hayley Rutger, Mote Marine Laboratory public relations specialist.
Fox said that she is optimistic that the DVD will spread awareness about turtle lighting, particularly to maintenance employees and builders who work with lighting. And if you don’t comply with turtle-lighting regulations? Not a bright idea. On Longboat Key, property owners can be fined up to $250 per day for non-compliance.
Rules of Engagament
• If you encounter a nesting turtle, remain quiet and observe from a distance.
• Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
• Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water.
• Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
• Place trash in its proper place.
• Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise or shine lights at turtles.
• Use flashlights 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.
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com.
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