For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Thanks in part to oceanfront residents' continued compliance with sea turtle-friendly lighting requirements, St. Lucie County experienced an increase in turtle nesting.
Resident's efforts to conserve endangered sea turtle populations have helped sea turtle nesting activities on local beaches. Sea turtle lighting requirements remained in effect during nesting season which ran from March 1 through Nov. 15.
Erik Martin, scientific director for Ecological Associates, reported end-of-season results showing that from Normandy Beach south to the St. Lucie Inlet, a total of 3,956 loggerhead, 195 green turtle and 239 leatherback nests were observed and reported.
This compares to 2011 nesting totals of 3,478 loggerhead nests, 243 green turtle nests and 376 leatherback nests.
In addition, St Lucie County's Mosquito Control and Coastal Management Department commissioned a lighting survey which was published in August 2012. More than 90 beach-front facilities were surveyed. High-intensity lighting violations were observed on only three properties. Moderate- to low-intensity lighting problems were identified on other locations.
The county's code compliance is currently working with these properties to help them be in compliance by the next nesting season which begins March 1, 2013.
The UF/IFAS St. Lucie County Extension provided educational programs designed to teach residents about sea turtle-friendly beaches and how to comply with lighting requirements.
Research has shown that improper beach front lighting greatly increases sea turtle mortality. Because of the danger posed by improper beach-visible lighting, there are federal and state laws that protect the area's threatened and endangered sea turtle populations. St. Lucie County enforces these rules. Failure to obey can result in a code violation and increased sea turtle mortality.
According to county code, exterior light sources directly visible from the beach or illuminating areas seaward of the primary dune must be turned off between sunset and sunrise during nesting season. Existing artificial light sources should not be directly visible from the beach and cannot illuminate areas seaward of the primary dune.
Lights illuminating beach access points, dune crossovers, beach walkways, piers or any other structure seaward of the primary dune designed for pedestrian traffic must be shielded so they are not directly visible from the beach.
To prevent interior lights from illuminating the beach, window treatments are required on all windows of single and multi-story structures if these windows are within the line of sight of the beach. Blackout draperies or shade screens are preferred.
Alternatively, window tint may be applied to beachfront windows. People should turn out all unnecessary interior lights during nesting season.
For more information on sea turtle-friendly beaches, call (772) 462-1660. For more information about nesting survey results, call (772) 334-3729 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.