Hollywood dims lights for sea turtles

The City of Hollywood voted in favor of an ordinance that will help sea turtles walk away from the light.

By 2015, the city will dim the lights along the Hollywood Broadwalk to aid sea turtles that walk toward the lights, said Raelin Storey, public affairs and marketing director for the City of Hollywood. However, Storey said the city commission must vote in favor of the ordinance twice before it passes.

Sea turtles use the moon’s reflection on the water as a guide to the ocean. However, when they see artificial lights they walk toward them instead of the ocean.

“Some of them go on their own road. Some of them end up in storm drains,” said Curtis Burney, associate professor of oceanography. “Some of them are rescued by people who patrol at night. Most of them are just never found.”

Burney said sea turtles are an endangered species.

Storey said that the purpose of the ordinance is to improve the turtles’ habitat by reducing the impact of artificial crystal lighting.

Burney said the ordinance was a good initiative but that its implementation was a problem.

“Other cities in the county have had these ordinances for some time and we still have a problem with hatching disorientation so just getting something on paper doesn’t do it,” he said. “There has to be intense enforcement and it’s something that cities are not usually willing to do.”

Storey said that while the state and the county asked all coastal cities to address the sea turtle issue, Hollywood is the only city in Florida that has a Broadwalk, a business district, which is adjacent to the sand.

“It’s taken us a while to figure out how to implement this protection for the turtles in a way that still preserves the safety of the people who will be utilizing the business district and balance the needs of the turtles with the needs of this very unique business district,” she said.

Storey said the city always had a desire to create an environment in which sea turtles can thrive and keep people in the business district safe.

“We’re very cognizant of the need to protect the turtles and protect public safety so we’re looking for solutions that will balance both,” she said.

Burney said that graduate students in the Oceanographic Center move sea turtle nests, but the state reduced the number they can remove, forcing cities to dim their lights for the turtles.

Storey also said the city recognizes the cost of the changes so the ordinance gives people time to prepare and plan for any changes they have to make without enduring financial hardships.

Stephen Roberts, junior criminal justice major and resident of Hollywood, said he thinks that the ordinance is important and that it is the only option to keep the  turtles safe.

“Although I think it might make the beach less safe, it’s also beneficial for the environment and the animals that live on the beach and that’s probably more important,” he said.

Storey said that the ordinance to dim lights along the Broadwalk in the City of Hollywood was voted on once and will likely pass a second vote before the end of the year.

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