Ordinances should help sea turtles this season

Turtle Watch

Laura Gjere helps Nancy Evou excavate a hatched sea turtle nest on Panama City Beach in November in this News Herald file photo.

Published: Monday, January 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Last year was the most successful ever recorded for sea turtle nests in Bay County.

While success of the upcoming nesting season is largely unpredictable, representatives from Panama City Beach’s Turtle Watch group are hopeful a series of new initiatives will aid in survival of hatchling sea turtles.

The beach’s new “Leave No Trace” ordinance has already proven helpful for hatchlings, and a new lighting ordinance will go into effect May 1, with an aim to reduce the number of disoriented turtles.

“I would say in a typical year we can have over 50 percent of the hatchlings that emerge on the beach affected by light,” said Turtle Watch Director Kennard Watson. “I expect we’ll see improvements on the beach this summer as the ordinance goes into effect.”

The ordinance is part of a federal mandate that requires all beachfront property owners to use turtle-friendly lighting to ensure hatchlings travel toward the gulf, rather than away from it.

While the ordinance was adopted a few years ago, property owners have since enjoyed a grace period to familiarize themselves with the details of the new lighting requirements.

“This is the year that the lighting ordinance will go into full effect,” Watson said. “On May 1, all beachfront property owners must be in full compliance.”

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