Tuesday, April 26, 2011

City issues 2011 sea turtle nesting season guidelines

Sea turtle nesting season has returned to Sanibel's beaches and the City of Sanibel, in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), continues its commitment to protect these threatened and endangered species.

Nesting and hatchling emergence will occur between May 1 and October 31 and we ask all residents and visitors to follow the guidelines below to help us ensure a successful nesting season.

The nesting ritual of the loggerhead sea turtle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena occurring on Sanibel's Gulf beaches. This natural process has happened on Sanibel for centuries and our eleven miles of Gulf shoreline have more nesting activity than any other beach in Lee County. The rare opportunity to witness this ritual on a dark summer night is both an honor and a great responsibility. Sought by predators and susceptible to dehydration, sea turtle hatchlings have only a 1 in 1,000 chance of survival. Human activities can further reduce that chance.

By following these simple guidelines, you can do your part to ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures:

• 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. 

Gulf-front property owners should make sure that their properties are in compliance with the City's marine turtle protection ordinances and ensure that artificial lighting from the property is not illuminating the beach (Sanibel Code Section 74-181-74-183, Section 126-996-126-1002). 

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. This light could potentially deter female turtles from nesting or disorient hatchlings as they emerge from the nest.

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. We ask for your continued compliance with City's marine 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. 

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

For more information regarding sea turtles on Sanibel, please visit the City's website atmysanibel.com/Departments/Natural-Resources/Protecting-Our-Beaches/Sea-Turtles. from www.captivalsanibel.com 

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