Island nesting turtles safer courtesy BP mitigation
For every turtle that died as a result
of the BP oil catastrophe, funds were
paid into an account to help the survival
of the species. Seven properties
on the Island were retrofitted with
turtle-friendly lighting. Here, the upper
half of the stairwell for Martinique
North has been fitted with window
film. At the time of this photo, the
bottom half had not yet been fitted.
There was a price on the head of every sea turtle killed as a result of the BP oil explosion and spill last year in the Gulf of Mexico.
That money ultimately flowed into the hands of Sea Turtle Conservancy.
The conservancy used the money around the state to help future generations of threatened and endangered sea turtles survive.
In Florida, those funds were used to retrofit the lighting for properties along the coast.
Here on Anna Maria, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring was responsible for helping to distribute the funds.
"We put out a notice in the papers, and applications poured in," AMITW Director Suzi Fox said. "We worked through the list and took on the projects that we could handle the quickest and easiest."
Fox was pleased with the response and glad the money was going to retrofit lighting.
Sea turtles are attracted to bright lights, and when artificial lights are brighter than the water itself, turtle hatchlings often head towards that artificial lighting rather than into the waters of the Gulf.
Each year, hatchlings are crushed in traffic or they dry out as they head further and further inland and away from the beach.
Last year, a baby turtle was found in one of the driveways at Queen's Gate
across from the water on Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach. That's not likely to happen again. Queen's Gate was the recipient of some of the BP money.
"The new lighting looks fantastic," said Cathy Wooten, manager of Queen's Gate. "We got 15 sets of lights — one for each unit. Then we got two down pointing lights for our sign."
Wooten said the lights on the sign used to point up to the sign from the ground.
"The down lights are great," she said. "You can see the sign just as well, and the whole property looks really beautiful now."
Wooten said the new turtle-friendly lighting fixtures, which were installed at no cost to her, provide plenty of light.
She added that she's noticed that the electric bill has gone down a little. The new fixtures use LED technology, which draws a lot less energy from the power grid.
"Our new turtle-friendly lighting is wonderful, and we're saving on our electric bill," Wooten said.
Other properties that were awarded the grant money include Club Bamboo, Silver Surf, Coconuts, La Playa and Martinique North.
Fox said different turtle-friendly lighting techniques were used on different properties.
At Coconuts, which is on Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, was retrofitted with light posts, which are poles around 36 inches high. They're placed at street ends to make the lighting softer and the source doesn't hit people right in the eye, which can temporarily blind them.
Other solutions could improve landscaping fixes such as putting bushes in front of problem lights, different light bulbs, window film or even curtains.
"We fitted the stairwells at Martinique North with window film," Fox said. The difference in the amount of light that shines on the beach is amazing."
The original $42,000 became available late last year and was allocated by the end of January. Most of the installations took place in February and March.
It's only now that the favorable impact on nesting turtles is becoming apparent, according to Fox.
"There isn't any more money available, but I'm pursuing every source of funding I can, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to find some more funding so we can retrofit additional properties."