Turtles on the Beach

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Fort Myers Beach has a record number of sea turtle nests this year. For the past decade, we’ve watched as the number of nests slowly crept higher. We hit 99 in 2017. This year we are already well over 100 and still growing. Watch our turtle tally on the Around & About page for the latest nest count.

How did we get here? We have some ideas on contributing factors.

In 1987 Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) were required on all U.S. shrimp trawlers. In 1989, the shrimp/turtle law went into effect, requiring countries that export shrimp to the U.S. to certify that the shrimp was caught by boats with TEDs. While not perfect, TEDs offer most turtles a chance of survival if caught up in a fishing net.

In 1991 Florida passed the Marine Turtle Protection Act addressing coastal construction that impacted turtle nesting and introduced model lighting rules for local governments. The state began issuing monitoring permits to organizations that track nesting, like Turtle Time, Inc.

Lee County adopted sea turtle protection rules in 1989. The Town of Fort Myers Beach updated theirs in 1998. An active education campaign by Turtle Time, Inc and the Town of Fort Myers Beach promotes the use of Amber LED bulbs and the shielding of all lights visible from the beach. This year Amber LED lights are available at Town Hall and FMB Environmental Coordinator Rae Burns began offering courtesy light inspections to property owners.

Turtle Time, Inc, was established in 1989 by Eve Haverfield. Over the past 30 years, hundreds of volunteers have risen before dawn to walk the beach and look for new and hatched nests.

Add all of this up and combine it with the fact that loggerhead turtles begin nesting at age 25 -30 and they return to the beach where they hatched. Serious sea turtle protections began about 30 years ago. So, it’s no surprise to see turtle nests in record numbers this year.

While everyone loves those tiny turtle hatchlings and their adorable gallop to the water after hatching, not everyone is thrilled with the rules that make that gallop possible, but together, all the efforts have worked.

We’d like to thank everyone who has made this season possible. The shrimpers who adopted TEDs. The legislators and local elected officials who passed rules protecting nesting turtles. The businesses who found a way to live with the turtle rules. The homeowners who do the right thing and keep light off the beach. Eve Haverfield for founding Turtle Time, Inc, and the many TT volunteers.

Thank you to everyone who gets it, who is willing to sacrifice a bit to allow space for sea turtles to nest on our beach, who recognize that the sea turtles who nest on our beach this year are the descendants of turtles that nested here long before any of us lived on this island.

 

Missy Layfield
Editor