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Date of Issue: May 20, 2009

Nest No. 2 arrives

Nesting sea turtle No. 2 arrived on the shore of Anna Maria Island May 12.

The female turtle dropped its eggs just feet from a chair left on the beach in the 800 block of Gulf Drive North in Bradenton Beach, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch executive director Suzi Fox.

Fox said it was fortunate the turtle did not become caught in the chair, and that the chair did not interfere with the nesting attempt.

Fox also observed that, for the most part, the Island’s beaches are “clean.”

During nesting season, which generally runs from May 1 through Oct. 31, beachgoers are advised not to leave items overnight on the sand because turtles can either become trapped or confused.

Lights on the beach also can interfere with nesting, and Fox said that she’s still seeing locations where lights are illuminating the beach, especially in Bradenton Beach.

Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach play a municipal role in the worldwide effort to protect the endangered animals. Each of the cities has a sea turtle ordinance restricting lighting during nesting season.

Anna Maria’s ordinance states that its purpose is “safeguarding the nesting female and hatchling marine turtles from the adverse effects of artificial light; and adult and hatchling marine turtles from injury or harassment.”

The measure requires that property owners “must ensure that the beach is not directly or indirectly illuminated by lighting originating from existing development during nesting season. Artificial lighting from existing development must not directly or indirectly illuminate the beach during nesting season.”

Violators may be fined $100 on the first offense and $200 per day for subsequent offenses, in addition to possible federal and state penalties that could result from threatening an endangered species.

In Bradenton Beach, property owners also must ensure that nesting habitat “is not directly or indirectly illuminated by lighting originating from existing development during nesting season. Artificial lighting from existing development must not directly or indirectly illuminate sea turtle habitat during nesting season.”

In Holmes Beach, the city’s ordinance states, “It is the policy of the city that no artificial light illuminate any area of the incorporated beaches of the city.”

Holmes Beach code enforcement officer Nancy Hall inspected property from the beach on April 30 and identified several lighting hotspots.

“I have spoken to someone with each one and I have made my recommendations,” Hall said, regarding problem lights. “And they are now in the process of changing over to our recommendations and, hopefully, they will within the next two weeks be done.”

Hall planned to conduct another lighting survey this week and to conduct random surveys throughout nesting season because vacationers renting along the beach often are unaware of the regulations.

“The renters change every day,” she said.

In Anna Maria, Fox said morning walkers reported in the first weeks of nesting season that just a few lights appear to be problems, possibly because they are on timers or motion detection systems.

“Things are flowing smoothly up there,” she said.

In Bradenton Beach, however, “there is lots of light,” especially from businesses along Gulf Drive.

“There are even Christmas lights up,” Fox said last week. “Everybody still has lights on.”

Bradenton Beach chief code enforcement officer Steve Gilbert said his department share’s Fox’s concern about lighting.

The city sent letters to property owners along the Gulf in April to notify them of nesting season.

Obviously, Gilbert said, some notices “have not been heeded.”

He said code enforcement officers recently surveyed the beach, taking photographs and making notes, and that “delivery of a number of violation notices is in progress.”

Gilbert said the city is seeking voluntary compliance, but violators could end up getting a ticket or appearing before the city’s special master.

“We have been educating for a number of years now, with limited results,” Gilbert said. “It appears that this year will be a more formal code enforcement year. Those being noticed based on the first general sweep will be expected to come into compliance immediately, and the notices state this.”