The first reading on the Proposed Revisions to Article V. –Sea Turtle Protection was held at the January 19, 2021 Marco Island City Council Meeting. With a vote of 6-0, this item was deferred to a future date. Chair Grifoni stated that “this has been batted around for a year and for it to go another year – maybe within the next six months.” City Manager McNees suggested to bring it back in a month.
According to an email sent to City Council by Andrew Tyler, a member of the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee (BACR), “the draft presented to the Council contained no substantial input from BACR despite a wealth of comments and data obtained by the Committee from the public, experts, and authorities around the State, and that there was no coherent effort to put together a true draft and should not have been presented.”
Maria Lamb, Chair of BACR, also appeared before City Council with a list of reasons why she was not in support of the presented draft.
Lamb informed the Council that in 2019, the State came up with a new FWC Model Sea Turtle Ordinance that was all about the new science and technology.
Lamb mentioned the use of a spectrometer (light meter), which Code Enforcement purchased last summer to measure wavelength emitted by artificial lighting from beachfront properties.
Lamb further stated that “if noise decibel meters are being used to measure noise, the same rules should be applied for the sea turtle light meter. If we are going to measure audio for noise, then we should also be able to measure light from artificial lights during Sea Turtle Season. Just like the Noise Ordinance, each enforcement officer working with the spectrometer should be trained to use this device and use the photo and printouts as part of the magistrate report.
From the Council’s reaction to the usage of a spectrometer, they seem to see value in using an objective tool (similar to the noise decibel meter).
On enforcement, Lamb referred to the Fertilizer Ordinance as an example of an ordinance not being enforced. She cautioned that unless Council is going to add resources to enforce the Sea Turtle Ordinance, new or old, she fears that “hatchling disorientation rate for Marco will remain high in the foreseeable future.”
At the City Council meeting Captain Baer reported there were 47 sea turtle lighting code violations brought before the magistrate for the 2020 sea turtle season, suggesting that higher disorientation numbers are due to the increased enforcement on the beach. BACR’s goal is to reduce hatchling disorientation.
Hatchling disorientations, as reported by the Sea Turtle monitors (Marco’s being the highest in the county,) is a consequence of lights on the beach, not of enforcement. If enforcement had an impact, Marco should have seen a decrease in hatchling disorientation.
Lamb’s recommendation to Council was to: stay with the existing version of the ordinance; test the usage of the spectrometer for 2021 season; collect data; improve education and outreach and see what happens after 2021 Sea Turtle Season.
Councilor Folley suggested “to wait until next year when there is something that is more comprehensive for us to review.”