Turtle Watch, resort working to improve lighting

Turtle Watch, resort working to improve lighting
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring has made turtle-friendly lighting information available to residents and businesses at Holmes Beach City Hall. - Cindy Lane | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Outdoor lighting at the Anna Maria Beach Resort is expected to become more turtle-friendly and safer for people after discussions following a code compliance hearing last week.

Lights from the former Blue Water Beach Resort, 6306 Gulf Drive, were among those that disoriented a loggerhead sea turtle nest during Fourth of July festivities, with some hatchlings dying and Holmes Beach police rescuing about 40, said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

Holmes Beach code officers brought the resort to task before a special magistrate on July 31.

The city’s turtle lighting ordinance is designed to keep nesting and hatching turtles from seeing any lights from the beach to prevent them from being temporarily blinded as they seek the Gulf of Mexico.

City Code Compliance Supervisor James Thomas reported that the resort had been notified that its lighting was out of compliance with the city code on May 31. The resort changed to turtle-friendly bulbs just two days before the hearing, bringing the property into compliance with city law, he said.

But Fox remained concerned about the resort’s stairwell lighting, which she said could disorient hatchlings in another 16 nests on the beach – containing up to 100 turtle hatchlings each – including a nest laid by Bortie Too, satellite-tagged in June by the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Resort attorney Aaron Thomas said that resort owners are concerned with “significant life safety issues” such as accidents or crime if all lighting on the beach-facing side of the property is dimmed.

After discussions following the hearing with resort representatives, the resort “is willing to go the extra mile” to keep turtles and people safe, even though it is officially in compliance with city code, Fox said. “We are going to work with them to get better lighting in the stairways to keep people safe and keep turtles happy.”

Turtle Watch will contact the Sea Turtle Conservancy for help to obtain more turtle-friendly light bulbs that also provide adequate lighting for people, Fox said. Turtle Watch already has donated 18 turtle-friendly bulbs to the city for free distribution, one to a customer, with additional bulbs available at cost for $22 each from Turtle Watch. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-approved bulbs also are available at retailers.

Amber bulbs made for turtle beach applications are preferable to red bulbs, she said, because they give out more light while remaining turtle friendly; however, “bug” bulbs painted amber do not work. Downward-facing fixtures are preferred to keep light from being visible on the beach.

Beachfront property owners anywhere on the Island with questions about getting turtle-friendly bulbs may call Fox at 941-778-5638.