Sea turtles that have nested on Anna Maria Island beaches for millennia are being targeted as undocumented immigrants.
According to new environmental regulations enacted by new officials with the EPA, sea turtles will no longer be allowed on U.S. shores, and a wall will be built to prevent future nesting activity.
An Aquatic Defense Boundary Wall — a title given to the project by the federal government — will extend the full length of the Gulf-side of the island, about 1 mile offshore.
Similar plans are in motion for neighboring barrier islands where sea turtles nest, including on Longboat Key. An ADBW is under construction in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.
The wall will be funded using money previously allocated to environmental protection for sea turtles and other species.
ABDW’s Willam Dawson is chair of the wall logistics committee. He claims sea turtles have been considered a “nuisance” by some government factions for years.
“Now that government isn’t wasting all that money on turtle-friendly lights and outreach, we can finally build this wall and keep those seagrass-eating menaces offshore,” Dawson said.
Wall construction could begin as early as May, the start of sea turtle nesting season.
Female sea turtles only come ashore to nest and during this time, lights on the waterfront must be kept low and shielded, so as not to distract the turtles from returning to the Gulf of Mexico.
But no more.
George Linnby owns a home on the beach in Anna Maria and says he is “over it” with sea-turtle precautions.
“Switching out lights, shutting curtains after dark, motion sensors — all this to accommodate outsiders that just want to dig up our beaches with their stinky nests,” Linnby said. “To me they just represent a hazard.”
In a March 31 interview with The Islander, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox said she is outraged and will do anything to stop the wall.
“This is a travesty,” Fox said. “If we have to swim out there ourselves and blockade the contractors, then so be it.”
But representatives of longtime Bradenton resident Snooty the Manatee feel differently.
“Snooty always gets really down come May and doesn’t shake his funk until after they’ve gone back out to sea,” Kelly Cooper, Snooty’s social director, said March 29. “We can’t even mention the words ‘sea turtle’ near his tank or he gets agitated.”
According to Fox, the fight has just begun. She will work to designate a “sanctuary beach” for the turtles, if the wall is built.
“We are rallying support from organizations around the country who will help us knock down this wall before it’s built,” Fox said. “Not even the president — or Snooty for that matter — can stop our girls from coming home to nest.”
Fox said she’d put out a call to action April 1.