(By Cindy Johnson) On April 15th, Turtle Time volunteers will begin surveying Fort Myers Beach for State and Federally Protected Sea Turtle nesting activity. Here’s how you can help keep the turtles safe and give them the best chance to survive.
While May 1st has been the official start of Sea Turtle Season for the Florida West Coast for decades, documented April activity on FMB and other Southwest Coast beaches has pushed this date forward to April 15th for Turtle Time and other FWC Sea Turtle Permit Holders.
May 1st remains the official date for the Town of Fort Myers Beach Sea Turtle Ordinance enforcement. Sightings of more sea turtles near shore are an indication that it is now time to prepare to welcome our FMB Sea Turtles.
Artificial lighting remains the primary threat to these threatened and endangered species. Close blinds, drapes or use window tint to block interior lighting. Direct, indirect and cumulative exterior lighting issues are remedied by following all three FWC Wildlife Lighting Golden Rules:
#1) Keep it LOW
Mount fixtures as low as possible with the lowest wattage/lumens necessary for the needed purpose.
#2) Keep it LONG
Use only long wavelength light (560nm or greater, which is amber, orange or red).
#3) Keep it SHIELDED
Fixtures must be completely downward-directed and completely shield bulb, lamp or glowing lens from the beach.
Cumulative “Sky Glow” issues can be reduced by individuals anywhere on our barrier island following the above Golden Rules.
In a 9/14/21 email to the Fort Myers Beach town council, SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan said, “There’s concerning data regarding the growing impacts of “sky glow” on Sanibel and Captiva’s nesting sea turtle population. Since 2014, the number of sea turtle nests impacted grew to a high of 7.7% in 2019 and sky glow disoriented a total of 1,814 hatchlings that year”.
Beach Obstructions including beach furniture, jet skis, boats, tents and toys placed landward of the dunes before dusk provides a clear path to and from the Gulf for nesting female turtles, to the Gulf for their hatchlings, and avoids harm to these protected species. Dunes protect properties from erosive high tides and provide a more successful sea turtle nesting habitat away from your property.
It takes an army of citizens, town employees and volunteers to fill all the holes on the beach to not only protect the turtles from falling in leading to overexertion and increased predation, but also the humans walking, running or riding their bikes. Sea turtle conservation efforts also benefit humans. Please knock down your sand creations and fill in all holes before you leave the beach.
Please observe nesting and hatching turtles from a distance, always stay behind them, leaving a clear path to the Gulf. Flashlights, cell phone lights and flash photography will disturb nesting sea turtles and disorient hatchlings so please refrain from using on the beach. Boat cautiously. If you come across a sick, dead, injured turtle, or if you hook a sea turtle, please call Turtle Time (239)481-5566 or FWC Wildlife Alert (888)404-3922.
Thank you to the thousands of people on FMB (property owners/residents, businesses, town employees, visitors, press and volunteers) that embrace conservation efforts and take action to save these protected species.
Cindy Johnson is a Fort Myers Beach resident and a volunteer at Turtle Time and can be reached by e-mail for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org