Notices for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions are on the rise

Signage and ribbons warn people away from the egg site of a nesting turtle in Tigertail Beach on Marco Island.

[Editor's note. This report was written based on information provided by the Marco Island Police Department (MIPD) on Aug. 9, 2019. On Nov. 1, MIPD updated the number of notices for sea turtle lighting code violations in 2018 from 20 to 30 notices.]

The notices for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions are on the rise, according to the Marco Island Police Department.

So far MIPD's Code Enforcement has issued 31 notices of violation during the 2019 sea turtle season, 11 more than in 2018. Sea turtle season runs through Oct. 31.

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Of the 31 notices of violation issued, nine were issued for a second time this year, which requires the violator to appear before the Code Enforcement Magistrate.

Those found in violation of the lighting restrictions associated with sea turtle season can be sanctioned for simultaneous violations of federal, state, county and city law, which could result in fines or imprisonment. 

Why are lighting restrictions important? 

The female turtles lay their nests on the beach at night and then use the naturally bright horizon to find their way back to the sea, according to the City of Marco Island's website.

"Artificial lights on the upland and shoreline disorient the sea turtles and deter them from nesting or from returning to the ocean," the website reads.

Likewise, the hatchlings will travel inland toward the brighter artificial light. If they are disoriented, they often die from dehydration and are easily preyed upon by predators, according to the website.

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What you can do to help:

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights.
  • Close blinds and curtains.
  • Shield light sources.
  • Apply window tint to windows.
  • Don’t use decorative landscape lighting on the beach side.
  • Plant vegetation buffers between light sources and beach.
  • Don’t use flashlights or flash photography on the beach at night.

Source: City of Marco Island