Marco condos fined $1K for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions, one repeat offender

Code Enforcement special magistrate Myrnabelle Roche speaks to the legal representative of Madeira on Marco Island condominium association on Sept. 24, 2019.

[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 Marco Island Code Enforcement Magistrate issued $1,000 in fines to three condominium associations for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions on Tuesday. One of them, Madeira, was fined last month for the same code violation.

Special Magistrate Myrnabelle Roche issued a fine of $500 against Madeira's condo association after a city Code Enforcement officer discovered light poles and decorative lighting in the pool area could potentially disorient turtle hatchlings.

Roche said she did not grant the city's request to fine the association $3,500 because there was no evidence of irreparable harm like the death of turtle hatchlings.  

The violations have since then been fixed. 

"Every time they catch you it's going to be $500," Roche said. "You will be deemed a repeat violator."

The Eagle reported on Aug. 30 that Roche issued a fine of $1,050 against Madeira and its contractors for beach code violations after removing sand dunes and native vegetation without permits.

The Sandcastle I and Emerald Beach condo associations were each fined $250 because a Code Enforcement officer found in July their respective pool lighting  was reflecting on their buildings.

Roche had postponed issuing fines in August to Sandcastle I and Emerald Beach to give Code Enforcement an opportunity to re-inspect the condominiums after changes were made. The violations in both condos have been fixed, according to Code Enforcement.

Roche ordered each of the condo associations to pay $50 to cover administrative fees.

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

The Eagle reported on Aug. 29 that Roche issued $1,300 in fines against six condominium associations for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions. Four of the five associations were fined $250 and Madeira $50.

The notices for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions are on the rise, according to a news release sent Monday by the Marco Island Police Department (MIPD).

Since May 1, Code Enforcement has issued 45 notices of violation during the 2019 sea turtle season, 25 more than in 2018. Sea turtle season runs through Oct. 31.

"Depending on the severity of the violation and other unique factors, the fine could be as high as $5,000 per event - for violations of Marco Island City Code," Captain David Baer wrote. "Both Collier County and the State of Florida have their own ordinances or statutes, and related penalties as well."

Out of the 45 notices, two were determined to be unfounded and eight are currently being investigated, according to MIPD.  

More:Madeira, contractors fined $1,050 for beach code violations in Marco Island, more to come

Turtle hatchling found dead in condo lobby

A resident of the Sunset House condominium reported in a Facebook group on Sept. 23 she found a dead sea turtle hatchling inside of a Ziploc-type plastic bag in the building's lobby accompanied by a note. "This is what you get when you don't close the blinds," the letter read.

A resident of the Sunset House condo reported Monday she found a dead turtle hatchling inside of a Ziploc-type plastic bag in the building's lobby accompanied by a note. 

Kelly Caudle, the resident, posted pictures of what she found in the Marco Patriots Community Forum Facebook group.

"This is what you get when you close your blinds," the note reads. "They crawl towards the light."

The note says the hatchling was found Sunday moving towards Sunset House.

"It's really not a Sunset problem," Caudle wrote to the Eagle. "It's a Marco Island problem."

Captain Baer said people should report disoriented or dead hatchlings to its Code Enforcement unit instead of removing them so they can take action against potential violators. "Whoever found the turtle should have called us," Baer said.

Why are lighting restrictions important? 

At night turtles 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

In case you missed it:International Coastal Cleanup: 140 pounds of trash collected in Tigertail Beach

And:Second dredging proposed for Tigertail Lagoon in Marco Island, ecosystem at risk