Turtle lighting grant money availableFrom the September 22, 2010 Issue
PHOTO PROVIDED/MOTE MARINE LABORATORY
A new grant program designed to reduce sea turtle light disorientations will pay for turtle-friendly lighting, window tinting, sea grape plants to shield lights and more for residents and business owners who act before Dec. 1.
Grant funds will cover light fixtures and bulbs, installation and permit fees, plants and even some window coverings, said Karen Shudes, of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, who is on Anna Maria Island this week to help coordinate applications.
It’s a rare opportunity for people who are not in compliance with the Island’s three municipal lighting ordinances to get legal for free, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox.
“We’re going to offer this to everyone on this Island so we can get this taken care of,” said Fox, who is excited about the opportunity to solve some longstanding lighting violations, which cause nesting females to abort nesting attempts and kill hundreds of hatchlings each year.
As of last week, 18 loggerhead sea turtle nests have disoriented on Anna Maria Island. Nests can contain up to 100 hatchlings each.
Fox asked code enforcement officers from the Island’s three cities last week to compile a short list of both beachfront and inland homes and businesses with lights that repeatedly disorient turtles in violation of the cities’ laws.
Fox and Shudes are contacting residents, condo association managers, business owners and others on the list to offer the free funds, she said.
Other interested private property owners also are welcome to apply for the funds, she said, adding, “No one will be turned down. Everyone is eligible.”
However, Fox said, “This will not be a 100 percent fix,” since new owners often purchase compliant homes and business on the Island, then remodel them and make them non-compliant with lighting laws.
Another recurring reason for turtle deaths is beachfront rental owners who don’t instruct their guests that it is illegal to allow lights from inside their rooms to be visible from the beach at night, Fox said, adding that even when owners leave Turtle Watch information in the rooms, tourists often ignore it.
For rental owners, the grant could pay for dark window tinting to help obscure indoor lights, Shudes said.
Outdoor lighting fixtures, such as lights for stairways, also are available under the grant.
“We can protect turtles and provide for human safety,” Fox said.
All lights purchased through the grant must be approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Lighting Certification Program, and Shudes will provide applicants with lighting choices.
All participants must meet city building code requirements, code officers said.
The statewide funds are from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife, made possible with proceeds from BP’s share of net revenue from oil recovered from the Deepwater Horizon site.
Information for applicants and contractors is available at www.islandturtles.com, or email Fox at AMITurtleWatch@gmail.com.