The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 39 - July 27, 2016


Tents, chairs impeding turtle nesting

Carol Whitmore


This mangled tent was found at sunrise on the
beach in Anna Maria. The tent had been in the same
spot for two days.

With the increasing popularity of large tents on the beach, mother sea turtles trying to nest on Anna Maria Island's coastline are running a gauntlet of metal frames and are not always succeeding.

Turtles are getting caught in the accordion-style frames that people fold up and leave on the beach overnight, in violation of Island city ordinances, said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

"Tent cities" – several tents right next to each other – sometimes stay up all night, and sometimes tents are erected before dawn, also a violation, she said.

"People put their tents up at 6 a.m. to save their spot," Fox said, suggesting that the Island cities should consider a no-tent policy on the beaches, like one in Ocean Isle, N.C.

Numerous tents are also a safety issue for people, making it more difficult for lifeguards to get to swimmers who need help. The tents sometimes break free in gusty winds and get blown down the beach, posing a hazard to beachgoers, Fox said. She added that they also prevent people from getting to and from the water, especially on three-day weekends like the recent Fourth of July weekend.

Chairs and benches also are causing problems for turtles, Fox said, recounting a disoriented sea turtle whose tracks indicate she approached the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria, became entangled in furniture and left without laying her nest.

For the second time, she said, Fox reported the incident by e-mail on July 12 to Pamela Gibbs, the parking and code enforcement manager for the city of Anna Maria.

"We are seeing more and more things left on nesting beaches in the city of Anna Maria," she wrote, citing an early July incident north of Pine Avenue in which a mother turtle nested against a dune with chairs, umbrellas, and toys hanging over the nesting site.

"Thank goodness they didn't fall," she wrote. "The volunteers who live and volunteer in your city, as well as me, are deeply concerned."

Another problem is that city benches that are not attached to the ground are being dragged down to the shoreline and left there, she wrote, and that turtle lighting ordinances are not being enforced.

"Could you give all of us an update on what the city of Anna Maria is doing?" Fox wrote.

Gibbs responded in an e-mail that she has "been working with our attorney and the restaurant to gain compliance. Again speaking to the restaurant manager, they have stated they will be in compliance. We will have the property re-inspected again this week to confirm compliance."

Gibbs did not respond to the other questions.

Fox said she plans to create a presentation to give to Island code enforcement officers in all three cities to improve the understanding and enforcement of turtle laws.

Hatchlings will be the next focus of concern, she said, as the first turtle nest hatched this month on the Island.

Turtle Tips

During sea turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, please follow these tips:

• Turn off lights visible from the beach and close blinds from sundown to sunrise; lights confuse nesting sea turtles and may cause them to go back to sea and drop their eggs in the water, where they won't hatch. Light can also attract hatchlings away from the water.

• Don't use flashlights, light sticks, or cell phone or camera flashes on the beach at night.

• Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise; they can deter sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.

• Fill in the holes you dig in the sand before leaving the beach; they can trap nesting and hatching sea turtles, which cannot live long out of the water.

• Don't use sky lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.

• Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.

• Never touch a sea turtle; it's the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Manatee Tips

• Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.

• Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.

• If you observe a manatee mating herd - several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female - watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

• Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.

• Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.

• Report stranded or dead manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Bird tips

During bird nesting season, March through August, please follow these tips:

• Never touch a shorebird chick, even if it's wandering outside a staked nesting area.

• Teach kids not to chase birds – bird parents may abandon nests if they're disturbed.

• Don't feed birds – it encourages them to fly at people aggressively and is not good for their health.

• If birds are screeching and flying at you, you're too close.

• Avoid posted bird nesting areas and use designated walkways to the beach.

• Keep pets away from bird nesting areas.

• Keep the beach clean; food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows to the beach, and litter can entangle birds and other wildlife.

• If you see people disturbing nesting birds, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Dolphin Tips


• Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins when viewing from a vessel or watercraft.

• Limit time spent observing dolphins to 30 minutes or less.

• Avoid making loud or sudden noises near dolphins.

• Move away slowly if a dolphin's behavior indicates the animal is stressed or disturbed.

• Look Before You Book! Book wild dolphin viewing tours with businesses that responsibly view dolphins in the wild and help dolphin conservation. See Facebook "Don't Feed Wild Dolphins" and "Dolphin SMART."

• Put your vessel's engine in neutral if in the close vicinity of dolphins.

• Call for help if you hook a dolphin on a fishing line or see a stranded or injured dolphin - Mote Marine's Stranding Investigations Program, 941-988-0212.


• Pursue, swim with, pet or touch wild dolphins, even if they approach you.

• Feed or attempt to feed wild dolphins.

• Encircle or entrap dolphins with vessels.

• Direct a vessel or accelerate toward dolphins with the intent of creating a pressure wake to bow or wake-ride.

• Separate mother/calf pairs.

• Drive watercraft through or over groups of dolphins.

Nesting news

Sea turtles

Turtle nests laid: 341

False crawls: 778

Nests hatched: 11

Not hatched: 50

Nests remaining: 280

Hatchlings to Gulf: 506

Nest disorientations: 1

Source: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

Adopt a turtle nest

Loggerhead sea turtle nests are up for adoption on Anna Maria Island beaches, to commemorate weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, lost loved ones or just for the love of nature. The 11-year-old program raises funds for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring. For a tax deductible donation of $100, adoptive parents receive the adoption plaque that was posted on the nest, a video of the nest, data from the nest, such as how many turtles hatched and when, and a letter of appreciation. To adopt, visit


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