Holmes Beach code enforcement officer Dave Forbes said he sometimes walks the beach in the afternoon, advising beachgoers with umbrellas, chairs and other accessories to take them home when they leave that day.
Items left on the beach overnight is an ongoing problem during turtle nesting season, Forbes said, and many visitors don’t realize a beach chair or umbrella can be an obstacle to a turtle struggling up the beach to build a nest, or a hatchling trying to find the Gulf of Mexico.
“I try to tell them in a friendly way that the stuff has to be off the beach by nightfall because of turtle season. A lot of them don’t know about the rules. I try to keep it casual, but it’s always a problem during the nesting season,” Forbes said.
He also tells beachgoers that leaving items on the beach at night is a good way for them to disappear by daylight.
“Things on the beach do get stolen,” he said.
Forbes also has contacted rental agents to encourage them to inform renters about the night restrictions for items on the beach.
Another problem during turtle nesting season is lights along the beach at night that affect turtles.
Most homeowners and rental agents are aware of the restrictions on lights during the turtle season, but there are always a few people who either don’t know the law, or forget to turn off the lights, Forbes noted.
Education is the key to protecting turtles, and Forbes has been working closely with the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring to get the lights turned off at night.
“If I get a report of a light left on, I contact the people who are there and just explain the laws about protecting the turtle hatchlings,” he said.
Turtle hatchlings emerge from their nest at night and are instinctively attracted to the sparkle of light on the water. But a light on a beachfront house can cause the hatchling to head in the wrong direction — to its death by dehydration.
“We just want to get the word out to keep the lights off at night on the beach, or have turtle-friendly lighting installed,” said Forbes.