JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Sea turtle season in Florida is just two weeks away, and the city of Jacksonville Beach is looking at changes designed to protecting turtle nests.
Beaches have been empty the past few weeks as part of Duval County’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. But as we return to the beach, keeping an eye out for turtles is key.
Casey Jones, founder of Florida Sea Turtle Watch, hopes this year’s sea turtle season will come with some protections in place for the reptiles that nest on Jacksonville-area beaches.
“They’re a majestic animal,” said Jones, who noted there are about 60 to 80 nests each year.
Turtles aren’t always protected, even if their nests are clearly marked. Last year, for instance, there was an entire nest of turtles hatched and then traveled in the wrong direction.
“We had sea turtles walking down First Street,” Jones recalled.
The problem? There was artificial lighting installed along Jacksonville’s beaches, which led the turtles away from the ocean.
Now, Jones is trying to address the issue by working with the city of Jacksonville Beach to replace all LED lights with amber lights.
“The issue we had here was, as you can see, there’s a super bright LED light right there,” Jones said. “There’s another one right on the dunes.”
At the 101 Ocean Front South parking lot, artificial lights have already been swapped out for amber lights with shields around them to protect sea turtle nests.
On Monday, the Jacksonville Beach City Council will take up a proposal that would impose new rules for beachfront lighting in hopes of keeping hatchlings safe.
“They want to fix the problem,” Jones said.
The measure wouldn’t just deal with the city’s light fixtures. It would also add new standards for new construction along the beach.
The City Council meeting will be held on a Zoom conference call. You can find directions on how to watch here.
Read the complete ordinance below: