Saturday, December 5, 2020

Dead Sea Turtle Hatchling Left in Condo Lobby


On Sunday, a photo of a dead sea turtle hatchling in a Ziplock plastic bag and its accompanying note circulated through social media. The handwritten note, which was left with the dead hatchling in the lobby of a north-end condo on Marco Island, read: “This is what you get when you don’t close your blinds! This crawled towards the light. Found this on beach Sunday, 9/22 heading toward our building.”

Posted on social media – a photo of a dead sea turtle hatchling inside a plastic bag, left at the condo lobby with a note, “This is what you get when you don’t close your blinds! This crawled towards the light. Found this on beach Sunday, 9/22 heading toward our building.”

According to the most recent Collier County weekly sea turtle activity update, sea turtle monitors have reported a total of 14 disorientations – the highest in the county. The first hatchling disorientations were reported on July 23, 2019. Another disorientation was reported on July 25th. Sea turtle monitor Tyler Beck found two hatchling bodies with their faces gnawed off – the second disorientation for that week. The numbers kept going up.

Around mid-August, the Marco Island Police Department sent out the following announcement:

During the 2019 sea turtle season, thirty-one notice of violations have been issued. Nine of these violations were issued for a second time in the past year, thus requiring an appearance before the Code Enforcement Magistrate. These locations include 140 Seaview Ct., 174 S. Collier Blvd., 260 Seaview Ct. (Tower #1), 300 S. Collier Blvd., 350 S. Collier Blvd., 730 S. Collier Blvd., 780 S. Collier Blvd., 890 S. Collier Blvd., and 930 Cape Marco Dr.

Those found in violation of the lighting restrictions associated with sea turtle season can find themselves sanctioned for simultaneous violations of federal law (Endangered Species Act), state law (Florida Marine Turtle Protection Act), Collier County Ordinance (Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance), and the city of Marco Island Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance – including potential fines and/or imprisonment.

Once again, On September 23, 2019, the Marco Island Police Department issued the following in response to the dead hatchling posted on social media:

We have received numerous requests for similar information regarding turtle lighting violations. Since May 1, the start of this year’s turtle lighting restrictions, we have investigated 45 cases. Six were sent to the Magistrate as repeat offenders, and an additional 2 are scheduled to do so. Two of the 45 were determined to be unfounded. A total of 8 cases are in open status and are in various stages of the investigation.”

Depending on the severity of the violation and other unique factors, the fine could be as high as $5,000 per event – for violations of Marco Island City Code. Both Collier County and the State of Florida have their own ordinances or statutes, and related penalties as well.

On Saturday, September 21, 2019, Katie O’Hara was walking the beach and reported “Unfortunately, I also found a dead one Saturday morning on the path cut through to the beach. I notified Mary Nelson about it as she was patrolling. She told me that there was a ‘disorientation last night’ (Friday, September 20). She wasn’t surprised. I told her exactly where the turtle was and she went to retrieve it.”

One out of 1,000 sea turtle hatchling survive to maturity. If it is a female, in 15-20 years, she will most likely come back to the same beach it was born.

The survivors of a sea turtle disorientation. These hatchlings were retrieved from the pool deck, parking lot and vegetation area of a north-end condo and released that evening after sunset. |Photos by Maria Lamb

2 responses to “Dead Sea Turtle Hatchling Left in Condo Lobby”

  1. Andrew Tyler says:

    I have seen “turtle count” figures assembled by the County for 2019 season to date. Taking these numbers at face value, the count for Marco Island as of September 16 shows 73 nests hatched and 13 “disoriented crawls”. This suggests a ‘disorientation rate’ of 18% of hatched nests, or almost one fifth.
    What is the value of a turtle nest in dollars? From mangroves to clean water to imperiled species , our state has lots of regulations and ordinances. When those responsible for enforcement come to deal with this type of thing, please remember that a condominium’s electric bill to light the property is frequently higher than the fines actually imposed for infractions. Do your job!
    In answer to the rhetorical question, is a species worth saving and at what cost? Given their already low survival rate, killing 18% of the baby turtles before they even get off the beach shows the actual value assessed by many of our citizens and judicial enforcement is “not even worth saving”.

  2. M C Leske says:

    The large number of turtle disorientations -the highest in Collier County- is a serious issue for Marco Island and reflects poorly on us. Those disorientations can be avoided by following the current lighting regulations, but not all condos do so…and some are repeat offenders. In my opinion, the fines on lighting infractions are way too low and easily disregarded. In addition to increased community education, strict enforcement and higher fines would help, especially for those repeat offenders.

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