FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – A group of environmental activists is demanding that the city of Fort Lauderdale do more to protect baby sea turtles from bright lights that disorient them.
At a city commission meeting Tuesday night, activists showed commissioners home video of activists finding dead baby turtles along A1A during the summer.
“Some of the hatchlings were smashed in the roadway,” said Richard WhiteCloud, founder of STOP, Sea Turtle Oversight Protection. “Other hatchlings were totally lost and disoriented in the parking lot and died from dehydration.”
One of the targets of the group are a row of lights along the eastern and western sides of A1A from the south beach parking lot to Sunrise Boulevard. The group says the lights are too bright and need to be replaced.
City officials say that’s exactly what they plan to do. They plan to begin installing a newly-designed sea turtle compliant light beginning in September. The lights cost more than $2 million dollars.
“We deeply care about the plight of the sea turtle situation,” said Chaz Adams, city spokesperson. “We are making investments in the beach in order to limit lighting and to be sea turtle compliant.”
City officials also 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 were referred to a special magistrate.
Code Enforcement Manager Michael Maloney said more violations are forthcoming.
“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.”
WhiteCloud said another issue is the lack of vegetation along parts of A1A. They want to see native beach vegetation from the south beach parking lot to Sunrise Boulevard. They believe that would provide a buffer for sea turtles from the lights on the beach.
WhiteCloud admits the city has done more to crack down on businesses. However, he says scenes of dead baby sea turtles still happen too often. He blames the city for not leading the way.
“If the city isn’t going to cite itself for its’ own lighting ordinance, then the city is saying it is superficially above the law and everybody else is a subordinate of the law,” WhiteCloud said. “That’s not right.”