Marco Island condos fined $1,300 for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions

[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 Code Enforcement Magistrate issued $1,300 in fines on Tuesday against several Marco Island condominium associations for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions.

Special magistrate Myrnabelle Roche fined five condominium associations $250 each for violating  the Sea Turtle protection ordinance of the city of Marco Island that establishes sea turtle protection standards. Another one was fined $50.

Myrnabelle Roche is the code enforcement magistrate of the City of Marco Island. The City started the magistrate system in 2015.

The condo associations of Tampico and Royal Seafarer were fined after Code Enforcement found their pool lights could potentially disorient sea turtles, deterring them from nesting or from returning to the ocean. The associations of Princess Del Mar, Sea Winds and Admiralty House were also fined because one or more apartment units were violating the sea turtle lighting restrictions.

More:Notices for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions are on the rise

Code compliance officer Andy Lindenmuth said many condominiums put signs in lobbies and elevators to remind residents and visitors of the sea turtle ordinance.  

"We are at the mercy of weekly rentals," a representative of the Sea Winds Condominium Association said. 

Code Compliance officer Andy Lindenmuth spoke on Aug. 27, 2019 to special magistrate Myrnabelle Roche about several code violations regarding lighting restrictions on the beach during sea turtle season in Marco Island.

Roche ordered each of the five condo associations to additionally pay $50 for administrative fees and costs.

The Madeira on Marco Island condo association was fined $50 for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions but was not charged for administrative fees.

More:DEP halts Madeira roof construction after environmental destruction

Roche postponed issuing fines against two other condo associations, Sandcastle I and Emerald Beach, to give Code Enforcement an opportunity to re-inspect the condominiums after changes were made to their respective pool lighting.

The city dismissed the sea turtle code violation against the South Seas West Condo Association Tower 1.

The Eagle reported earlier in August Code Enforcement had issued 31 notices of violation during the 2019 sea turtle season, 11 more than in 2018. Sea turtle season runs through Oct. 31.

Code Enforcement Magistrate's agenda - City of Marco Island [Aug 27, 2019] by Omar Rodriguez Ortiz on Scribd

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.

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

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