Activists Call On Ft. Lauderdale To Enforce More Sea Turtle Protection

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – A group of environmental activists is calling on code enforcement officials in the city of Fort Lauderdale to step up action against businesses and homeowners that violate the city’s artificial lighting policy and cause harm to sea turtle hatchlings.

Richard Whitecloud is the founder of the Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, or STOP. He and a group of volunteers patrol Broward County’s beaches each night, watching over nests, rescuing disoriented hatchlings and speaking to beachgoers and tourists about protecting the endangered turtles.

“The nesting habitat is suffering from our impact,” Whitecloud said. “We have to do something.”

Whitecloud says the artificial lighting from nearby businesses is the biggest problem facing hatchlings. The artificial lights can disorient them, causing them to head towards the light and away from the ocean. The city of Fort Lauderdale has a policy that states, “no artificial light shall illuminate or be visible from any area of the beach at nighttime.”

City officials say they have stepped up enforcement recently. They point to 172 open cases, 33 of which resulted in notices of violations being given to businesses and homeowners. Three of those cases are expected to be heard by a Special Magistrate.

One of the three is Silver Seas Beach Club. The resort was cited for having an illuminated sign and flood lights on at night. The general manager of the business says they fixed the problems but code enforcement officials have not yet cleared them.

Code Enforcement Manager Michael Maloney said more violations are forthcoming for businesses and homeowners on the beach.

“There is a push for more action to be done and more reduction in lighting,” Maloney said. “I think we’re making progress. It just maybe isn’t as fast as some people would like us to.”

The city also plans to replace all of its’ light poles along the east side of A1A with lights that cast light onto the road but not onto the beach.

On STOP’s website, Whitecloud has posted video of him re-orienting hatchlings away from the lights of Sunrise Boulevard and A1A and rescuing a nesting female trapped by two beach chairs, a kayak and a cabana cover.

He said people need to do their part to save this endangered species.

“We have a serious problem with people approaching the nesting females and chasing them off the beach,” Whitecloud said.

Whitecloud said another issue is the lack of vegetation along parts of A1A.

“Sunrise and A1A used to have dune vegetation so people could see the ocean coming down Sunrise Boulevard,” Whitecloud said. “What that did is it opened up clear access for any type of disorientation event to go right into the road. There is no buffer there.”

Maloney, the Code Enforcement Manager, said the city is communicating with STOP to protect sea turtle nest and hatchlings. Maloney called the effort “a big priority.”

More from Carey Codd
  • Billy Ray Sumbich

    Maybe the eggs should be harvested, hatched, and delivered by boat 5-10 miles offshore in the gulf stream. As an added bonus, it would put these so called activists out of a job…
    Win / Win- Let the party begin!


      To be out of this job is all we want!!! We all work day jobs and do this at night, for free… We would much rather be home, with family or sleep. But if we do, hatchlings die, by the thousands… It’s that simple so called Billy Ray Sumbich.

  • Mark F Lopez

    Perfect idea Billy Ray – lets put your self interest and shallow pleasures above those of an endangered species nesting habitat and the ocean’s health. Lets see how long you survive when those things disappear.

    • BR Sumbich

      Hi Mark and thanks for the sarcasm. I needed the laugh.
      I thought your organization was all about protecting and restoring the turtle population. Please explain how removing turtle eggs from nests, incubating them, and setting them out to sea effects the “health of the ocean”. If anything, such intervention can easily restore turtle populations, just as it did for the once endangered Florida alligator.

  • Justin Gould

    To be out of this job is all we want! We all work day jobs and do this at night. We would much rather be home or sleep. But if we do, they die.. by the thousands… It’s that simple so called Billy Ray Sumbich.

  • Holly Wilson

    Billy, I am one of the volunteers and I would LOVE to be ‘out of a job’. We are dedicated to the endangered animals that are using our beaches. Sea turtles have been coming to Ft. Lauderdale for millions of years, and know how to bury their eggs. It is not as simple as harvesting & releasing them. You are demonstrating absolute lack of knowledge on the subject, and extreme insensitivity regarding the welfare of endangered species. This mentality is driving them to extinction.

    • Billy Ray Sumbich

      Hi Holly, You are probably a really nice person, but I must say it is you who demonstrates the lack of knowledge. Isn’t the primary purpose of your group to increase the population of the endangered sea turtle? Or are there other unseen motives? Despite your good intentions, what you are doing just doesn’t seem to be working, or is very slow to getting results.

      What better way to accomplish your purpose than the EXACT WAY the endangered alligators were restored to healthy populations. (BTW, they also laid eggs millions of years ago).

      • Holly Wilson

        Billy, I have written emails & made phone calls to city employees, I nest sit regularly, release disoriented hatchlings into the ocean, and have taken weak ones to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. I am vegan and do not eat seafood (fishing gear is their number one killer worldwide) and I educate the public about what they can do to help. This is all I can do realistically and within the legal confines. Saving the turtles is my only motivating factor. Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP) has saved thousands of turtles. There is no refuting that. We need to learn how to live in harmony with our Earth’s treasures, and enforcing existing laws is a great start. Without STOP on the beaches every night, the turtles would be dying. Have you ever seen a hatchling run over by a car on A1A? It is devastating. We need immediate action. If we are the most intelligent animal, we need to start acting accordingly.

  • John

    If the code people are working all that hard for 8 years running with this amount of progress, it is time for a change.

    While any progress is commendable, taxpayers are entitled to more than a snail’s pace for a national disgrace.

    And now the City wants to install new lights visible from the beach? Where does the taxpayer revolt line end?

  • Ana Campos

    I think someone is getting a kickback. If violating the ‘lighting ordinance’ carries fines of up to $15,000 and the majority of hotels/condos on Fort Lauderdale Beach are in violation, why would Code Enforcement refuse to fine them? The City of Ft Laud is losing 10s of thousands of dollars in fines. Why would they nickel and dime small business owners on Las Olas for a tiny sign yet give big money hotels/condos a free pass?

  • Ana Campos

    In response to numerous emails from the public, City of Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said the following “I have always supported efforts to protect the turtles. My record in the legislature and here speaks for itself. Mayor Seiler”

    Yeah, and nothing is enforced. It speaks volumes of you Jack.

  • BR Sumbich

    You are going about this all wrong. Ridicule if you like, but it easiest solution is still to be to harvest the eggs, hatch them in a lab, and let them loose well out to sea.

    As you pointed out, Greenies could rest easy and rejoin your families, beach business could run all the lighting they choose, code enforcement can have the night off without overtime, and the little turtles could be set out to sea without their nests being trampled, without being flattened by cars on A1A, or eaten by birds. Business could operate at night, jobs could be saved or created (from the Obama doublespeak dictionary), and rivalries between business and Greenies would be spared.

  • GT

    BR, draw up the details, raise the funds and get permission to do that sounds like an idea.. It sounds like you done a ton of research on the solution you propose. I would like to hear how exactly that would work. Considering some of the issues that might become of your solution. I’m not to knowledgeable, but I think the turtles go back to where they was hatched to lay there eggs. If they are raised in a lab how would they know where to go to lay the eggs to repopulate, or even for us to get the next “harvest of eggs”? I know you had to work something out to compensate for that problem, what is the solution? I’m sure there are many other problems that need to be worked out for your win-win idea to work.

    • BR Sumbich

      Salmon return to the rivers where they hatched. It doesn’t seem to stop them raised in hatcheries. And BTW, the salmon populations are on the rise, despite the best efforts of the commercial fishing industry.

      As for details, I will leave that to someone smarter than you or I.
      It doesn’t take a genius to see that what is being tried is marginally effective.

      I do salute the volunteers, in that they are trying to make a difference. I just believe there may be better methods.

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