The Fort Myers Beach town council wanted more enforcement of their sea turtle ordinance and that’s exactly what they’re getting. There are now 70 warnings that have been handed out for light violations and one to a jet ski operator.
Some of the properties that were given warnings the first week of turtle nesting season (which began May 1st) were set to receive a follow-up inspection Monday night. Getting these properties into compliance is no small task. Right now, the town has a staff of one to carry out these duties.
Pictures have to be taken at night, violations have to be documented and entered onto the town’s website. Warnings have to be sent. Follow-up inspections scheduled. That process has to be followed repeatedly from one end of the beach to the other. The town council has been discussing adding more employees to help enforce the ordinance.
The rules are simple; if you own a light that can be seen from the beach, and it is not an FWC approved amber light, it has to be turned off at night. Or, you have to pull you blinds closed so that light can not be seen from the beach in any way. The lights have the potential to disorient turtle hatchlings when they need to get to the water as quickly as possible to fight for their survival. There are now 11 nests on Fort Myers Beach, according to Turtle Time. There were 10 at this time last year and 17 in 2020.
From the 70 warnings so far it doesn’t look like any actual fines have been issued. Perhaps that will occur after the follow-up inspections if the property owner is a repeat offender.
Many hotels and condo owners try to get their guests and residents to follow the rules. That can also become a full-time job. At times, there are people that vacation on the beach for a few days that either don’t know what the rules are or just don’t care. And, there will always be some people who just forget to close their blinds or shut off their lights.
Mid-Island Water Sports is also under investigation at all of their permitted locations on the beach, according to the violation file on the town website. The town appears to be alleging that the jet ski operator leaves equipment out on the beach overnight. The sea turtle ordinance calls for all equipment to be removed from the beach or moved behind a dune. The town attached this picture to the violation warning which appears to show the equipment left out on the beach late at night. Turtle hatchlings can get caught underneath debris left on the beach.