Atlantic Beach man presses efforts to protect sea turtles

City Commission approves ordinance to limit nighttime lights along beach

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – It's officially sea turtle hatching season and one Atlantic Beach man is thankful his city recently passed an ordinance to help protect them.

The ordinance is aimed at the way homes and businesses along the beach control their nighttime lighting, as lighting can distract the turtles away from the ocean and into dangerous conditions. 

The bill suggests pointing outside lights down, adding a shield to the lights that point to the ground and using blinds or curtains to shield interior lights from the beach. It also reminds people that the most sea turtle friendly lighting is a red or amber LED light. 

The Atlantic Beach City Commission voted on the ordinance 3-2, with Mayor Mitch Reeves casting one of the two votes against it. 

Reeves told News4Jax by phone Tuesday that he's not against helping sea turtles, but he said the ordinance involves selective enforcement, it will be handled by code enforcement not law enforcement officers, and they won't patrol but will only respond to complaints. 

The ordinance comes after sea turtle advocate Casey Jones started a petition -- which got nearly 120,000 signatures -- months ago to get the city to adopt one. 

Jones told News4Jax Tuesday that he's pleased by the vote and the ordinance is a step in the right direction, but he's not stopping his work to protect sea turtles. 

"Gov. Rick Scott, please help me make this a statewide law," Jones said. "I'm reaching out to him and hopefully he can step up to the plate and get this done for the state of Florida. Let's eliminate light pollution and stop letting that light pollution kill baby sea turtles."

Jones said there's still more work to be done. 

"Cut your palm tree lights out. Be responsible. Get with me, contact me at FloridaSeaTurtleWatch.com. I'll come install LED lights -- red, yellow, green. any color besides the bright white light," Jones said. "Who wants to see baby sea turtles dead in Atlantic Beach? Not me."

Reeves said he doesn't think an ordinance is what's needed, but more education. He said he wants the city to raise more awareness, and wants to meet with One Ocean Resort to collaborate on putting sea turtle protection information in each room -- so locals and visitors are more informed. 

For more information of protecting sea turtles, click here