Miami Beach Sea Turtle Protection Initiatives
Reducing Potential Disorientations
Light pollution from upland properties is of increased concern, particularly as more nests are left in situ. Sea turtles can mistake artificial lighting for the reflection of the night sky on the water and become disoriented, heading toward the lights on land rather than toward the ocean. Nevertheless, adequate lighting is critical in addressing public safety concerns, particularly in the commercial and entertainment districts. This is why areas like Lummus Park were designated primarily for nest relocation in the past. The struggle to balance the need of lighting for public safety and darkness for sea turtles is common to cities up and down the coast. Although there is no substitute for a naturally dark sky, there are practices that the city follows to reduce artificial lighting during nesting season, while maintaining a safe environment for our residents and visitors.
Every March, prior to the start of nesting season, the city sends a letter reminding beachfront properties asking that they turn off all unnecessary lights or keep blinds closed at night. Code Compliance conducts regular nighttime inspections to identify non-compliant properties and to educate or issue violations in accordance with the city’s sea turtle lighting ordinance (Chapter 46 of the City Code), as applicable. Despite these efforts, there is a number public and private properties that do not have sea turtle friendly lighting and which require a long-term plan for bringing them into compliance.
The City is working on short and long term strategies to reduce potential disorientations using the reports from Code inspections, as well as the nest, disorientation, and photometric data collected by the County and FWC. The Environment and Sustainability Department regularly analyzes the data to help other city departments prioritize lighting retrofit and enforcement efforts where they will have the greatest impact. In Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Lummus Park, the Public Works Department has shielded existing fixtures as an interim measure in the areas with the highest documented disorientations incidents. Additionally, the Police Department has strategically repositioned temporarily lighting within Lummus Park and South Pointe Park away from the beach.
Long term, the city has several projects in planning, design and construction that will replace existing lighting on public property with lights that are turtle-friendly. The Lummus Park lighting project will replace the existing acorn lights with fixtures that direct light downward, reducing light lost skyward and improving visibility within the park, and that can accommodate shields to redirect light away from the beach. The new fixtures are currently being manufactured. Similarly, the design for the beachwalk projects include amber LED bollards that are turtle-safe.
Reducing Potential Collisions
Foot traffic and vehicular traffic on the beach are also potentially harmful to sea turtles. As part of their permit responsibilities, the County documents any incidents that result in disturbances to turtles or their nests. In an effort to reduce the potential for future sea turtle collisions, city staff and contractors that work or operate vehicles on the beach are regularly trained on best practices for driving on the beach. Additionally, as part of their beach patrols, the Police Department keeps a watchful eye for vehicles that are not permitted to drive on the beach.
We understand many residents are passionate about sea turtles and want to assist, particularly in saving disoriented hatchlings. Unfortunately, sea turtle protection laws in Florida strictly limit the ability of non-permit holders to participate in sea turtle conservation efforts. For example, it is illegal for the public to pick-up sea turtle hatchlings even if they are disoriented. Instead, residents who are passionate about this issue should report sea turtle incidents to (888) 404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC on cellular phones.