Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

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Hadar
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Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 5th, 2016, 5:50 pm

Tonight my sister called to inform me of a disaster that occurred yesterday along the east coast of Florida. The sea turtle nests, which have been protected all season, were heavily populated yesterday by people watching the fireworks display. Yesterday also ended up being the same day the hatchlings emerged to head to the ocean. The city placed large spot lights along the roads to help people find their way from the beaches to their cars following the display and the hatchlings followed the lights as well. Not only were these turtles heading the wrong way but they were flooding into the streets. My sister said she witnessed hundred of turtles being crushed under the feet of thousands of drunk people. She mentioned that large groups of people were shouting at the police to turn off the lights but they refused. Some people started grabbing turtles and running them to the ocean. My sister wasn't hopeful that any of the turtles survived. She checked the news but there were no reports about the event. Has anyone else heard anything? This was in Delray Beach but she believes that the same thing occurred up and down the coast. Such a sad day for turtles and all of us who care for them.

Cheers, Heather

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Jeremy Wright
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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Jeremy Wright » July 5th, 2016, 7:39 pm

What a disaster. Seems a little typical of America to do something very ill-planned like this, and if anyone with knowledge of the turtles was present in planning, this shouldn't have happened. I saw a thing on a man who was caught with over a hundred eggs on Jupiter Island, not sure if he was on the beach because of fireworks, but it's plausible. Do you know if they actually opened up beaches that had been closed to public access to protect turtles for the displays or did people on beaches that weren't protected simply trample the turtles as they exited their designated fenced off nest zones? Either way I hope some people are in deep "doo doo" because this is an environmental tragedy and we can't afford to have this happen again.
All the best,
Jeremy

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Hadar
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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 5th, 2016, 8:20 pm

Florida is a bit of a disaster when it comes to human and ecosystem interactions. Every couple months there is a huge event that you would think we would learn from but people quickly forget. Just three months ago 4.5 billion gallons per day of freshwater was discharged from Lake Okeechobee into nearby estuaries causing massive fish kills totaling in the billions. In case you missed it, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-fara ... 30084.html. Last month water samples from Lake Okeechobee contained blue-green algae with more than 20 times the amount of toxins considered hazardous by the World Health Organization, http://www.tcpalm.com/news/indian-river ... 79671.html. I find it amazing that the wildlife in Florida is surviving as well as it is.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by dwakefield » July 6th, 2016, 6:44 am

We had dinner with a couple last night who were on the beach in Delray during the fireworks. Lots of turtles going the wrong way. The video clip they took of some of the turtles helped me identify them (at least those ones) as Loggerheads.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by monklet » July 6th, 2016, 7:05 am

This is an outrageous! Loggerheads are an endangered species. I'd think the jurisdictions that permitted and supported that disaster would be highly exposed legally, i.e., law suits. U.S. Fish & Wildlife and NGOs like "The Natural Resources Defense Council" would likely consider action. Whatever witnesses and documentation are available should be mustered in case.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 6th, 2016, 9:39 am

Still no official news about what happened on the 4th of July but the story about the man who poached 107 turtle eggs made it in, http://cbs12.com/news/local/law-enforce ... g-poachers. There was a news clip about the dangers to the turtles before all this went down, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw0KeDsYJKc. If anyone in Florida sees anything, videos, photos, or news articles, please post them here.

Thanks, Heather

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Kelly Mc » July 6th, 2016, 9:54 am

People should know about this.

idiots and their explosions.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by monklet » July 6th, 2016, 11:36 am

This might be a good cause for the NAFHA SE Chapter to pursue to spur an investigation and hopefully prosecution. Seems to be a clear violation of ESA and should be easy to prove.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 6th, 2016, 11:56 am

monklet wrote:This might be a good cause for the NAFHA SE Chapter to pursue to spur an investigation and hopefully prosecution. Seems to be a clear violation of ESA and should be easy to prove.
It should but I haven't seen any of the videos. Has anyone else? Do we have a Facebook investigator? Seems like something that people would post about.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Fieldnotes » July 6th, 2016, 12:16 pm

One sea turtle death is concerning, regardless of the age. However, to ease the thought of this tragedy, mortality of young sea turtles is often massive. I suspect, this will not be duplicated next fourth of July (2017). :(

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by walk-about » July 6th, 2016, 2:55 pm

Thanks for posting this Heather. Very sad.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by mtratcliffe » July 6th, 2016, 4:43 pm

Has anyone seen reports of this? One would think a story such as this would make the local news. A link to photographic/video evidence would greatly help.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 6th, 2016, 7:01 pm

I just read about the group, Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP). Maybe they have some evidence of what happened. Here is an article about them, http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/news/vo ... nt-7896761.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 6th, 2016, 7:02 pm

dwakefield wrote:We had dinner with a couple last night who were on the beach in Delray during the fireworks. Lots of turtles going the wrong way. The video clip they took of some of the turtles helped me identify them (at least those ones) as Loggerheads.
Could your friends post the video clip?

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by simus343 » July 7th, 2016, 4:25 am

I've not seen or heard anything about this until now, despite living in Florida and knowing a lot of people that try to keep up to date with conservation-disaster news. Damn.

As far as protected areas, there is a sea turtle nesting beach near me that was abandoned simply due to a lack of access and "too much" freshwater. The parking lot is about 1.5 miles away from the beach, which you have to walk through wet coastal flatwoods to access and suffer through beach-front mosquito swarms haha. It's a little more popular during the day, but dead at nightfall.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Porter » July 7th, 2016, 5:29 am

people assigned or volunteers

patrol/watch the beach

collection buckets

(colored red/blue diffused to not disturb crowd party) flashlights

Each volunteer signs in with driver license

Each person assigned to a portion on beach to eliminate walking and/or miss hatching

watch fireworks while working

Image20160707_135320 by California Reptile & Amphibian Appreciation, on Flickr


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dwakefield
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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by dwakefield » July 7th, 2016, 5:58 am

Hadar wrote:
dwakefield wrote:We had dinner with a couple last night who were on the beach in Delray during the fireworks. Lots of turtles going the wrong way. The video clip they took of some of the turtles helped me identify them (at least those ones) as Loggerheads.
Could your friends post the video clip?
The problem is that unless someone tells you what was happening in the video, you really can't tell. It just looks like some baby sea turtles crawling on the sand. Doesn't show that they were moving away from the ocean, and it also doesn't show anyone doing anything to them, so it's not really helpful as evidence.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 7th, 2016, 9:55 am

dwakefield wrote:
Hadar wrote:
dwakefield wrote:We had dinner with a couple last night who were on the beach in Delray during the fireworks. Lots of turtles going the wrong way. The video clip they took of some of the turtles helped me identify them (at least those ones) as Loggerheads.
Could your friends post the video clip?
The problem is that unless someone tells you what was happening in the video, you really can't tell. It just looks like some baby sea turtles crawling on the sand. Doesn't show that they were moving away from the ocean, and it also doesn't show anyone doing anything to them, so it's not really helpful as evidence.
Hmmm. My sister said she was at Atlantic Dunes Park in Delray Beach when this all went down. She mentioned that a lot of the public were upset and yelling because there is a large support of the turtles in that area. Gumbo Limbo, a sea turtle hospital/rescue, is just 11 minutes away. She was saying that the city prohibits "cleaning" the beaches so not to disturb the sea turtles so she was shocked that they would let this happen. Cleaning on many south Florida beaches means driving a plow over the beach and scooping off the top layer of sand to get all the trash as well as seaweed and any other vegetation. Instead of being able to do this, in areas with the sea turtles they have to manual remove trash and leave all vegetation. Even though they have been working hard to protect the turtles all year long, when the turtles finally hatch out, the city was more concerned about people's safety in getting off the beach and back to their cars than the animals they've been protecting. I am heading down to Florida on Monday and will see if I can find out more details while I am there.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Noah M » July 17th, 2016, 7:08 am

This is the first I've heard of this. I've seen during the day anyway many times where there are just a fences or stakes with ribbon set up around a turtle nest. The beach is still open, you just are not to disturb the nest.

I've never been to a beach to see fireworks and I don't know what type of lighting or safety procedures are taken for the fireworks viewers. I thought in some cases the beaches were closed at night and only turtle watch volunteers were allowed to be there, but these citizen helpers have no authority over other people who violate the curfew. I think all they can do is report the violation to authorities. If there are dozens of people on your beach, and the police are there more or less sanctioning it, then what can the volunteers do?

But for now, no evidence means it never happened. :(

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 17th, 2016, 1:42 pm

Update
I have been traveling around Florida for research from Gainesville to St. Augustine down to West Palm, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and back. There are many sea turtle nests along the coast and I have met with several of the groups and researchers working with the turtles. When I asked some of the researchers in St. Augustine about the firework incident in Delray Beach, they said that they had not heard of that particular case but that it didn't surprise them. They reported that events like it happen every year across the state on the 4th of July. They added that even though the majority of houses and businesses along the beaches use appropriate lights to avoid confusing the turtles there are some that refuse to do so and there is nothing that these turtle conservation groups can do. Just this summer a nest of Kemp's Ridley sea turtle hatchlings became disoriented by lights across the highway and were reported lost. There is a sea turtle hospital at the marine lab I am stationed at right now but they are focusing on trying to find a cure against the fibropapilloma-associated turtle herpesvirus and don't work with hatchlings.

There are several sea turtle monitoring groups around the state and they are who marks the nests with stakes and ribbons so that the public don't walk on top of the nests while the beaches remain open to the public. Just last week I was able to watch one monitoring group dig up a nest to verify its exact location, count the eggs, rebury them and set up the stakes. After the hatchlings emerge the group will dig up the nest to count the remains of the eggs that hatched and the ones that didn't. If hatchlings are reported heading the wrong direction, the protocol is to physically carry the sea turtles to the ocean and place them into the water. As noted previously, this can only be done with the proper licensing so if you see lost turtles, I was told, you are to call 911 to report it. With the sand dunes surrounding the area, if a sea turtle heads the wrong way it can quickly run through its energy reserves and become a snack for the waiting shore birds. If I find out more I will pass it along. I was unable to reach any sea turtle conservation officials in the Delray Beach area thus far to ask them any questions.

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by numpty » July 20th, 2016, 4:54 am

Good on you for pushing the issue. I hope you were able to get through to some conservation officials about this. What a shocker.

I don't particularly want to add to the "bad government" topic that's been sprawling all over the forum recently, but what do you make of a regulation preventing the carrying of hatchlings to the water without a permit, even when that means near-certain death? Would emergency services be likely to respond to such a call? If not, and in these circumstances, I think I'd be inclined to suspend my law-abiding status for a short time ...

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Jimi » July 20th, 2016, 7:17 am

in these circumstances, I think I'd be inclined to suspend my law-abiding status for a short time ...
not always an immoral choice, e.g.:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiune_Sugihara

cheers

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Re: Massive sea turtle deaths in Florida following fireworks

Post by Hadar » July 20th, 2016, 7:18 pm

numpty wrote:Good on you for pushing the issue. I hope you were able to get through to some conservation officials about this. What a shocker.

I don't particularly want to add to the "bad government" topic that's been sprawling all over the forum recently, but what do you make of a regulation preventing the carrying of hatchlings to the water without a permit, even when that means near-certain death? Would emergency services be likely to respond to such a call? If not, and in these circumstances, I think I'd be inclined to suspend my law-abiding status for a short time ...
Today I spoke with the director of the sea turtle hospital here. Again, she was not surprised about what happened but said that there is a loop hole in the law where you can pick up the hatchlings that are disoriented and put them in the ocean. She said that she has fought cops about moving sea turtle hatchlings heading inland and gopher tortoises crossing roads but always prevailed. I tried looking up the laws in Florida to see if I could get a concrete answer but thus far haven't found a specific written regulation. What I did find on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) website was their suggestions of what to do if you find disoriented sea turtle hatchlings http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea- ... -lighting/. Read below:

What should be done with misdirected hatchlings found on the beach?
Hatchling sea turtles found wandering away from the ocean should be taken to a darkened portion of beach and allowed to walk into the surf on their own. Those that do not crawl vigorously can be placed in the water and allowed to swim away. In all cases, local natural resource or environmental protection agencies should be notified. (Call 1-888-404-FWCC)


In addition, there are several organizations across Florida helping sea turtles. Here are the ones that the FFWCC currently recognize, they are ordered by county, http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/manag ... w-to-help/. Sea Turtle Oversight Protection is listed under Broward County and was mentioned by the director. She said that they would be the group most likely to be involved in the 4th of July incident in Delray Beach. I noticed on their website that they have regional maps showing areas where disoriented hatchlings have been rescued, http://www.seaturtleop.com/index.php/2015-03-18-13-12-4. They list 2015 but I didn't see one for this year.

There is a lot of information all over the coast of Florida about turtle safe lighting near beaches and the FFWCC has a really nice page about it on their website http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/manag ... /lighting/. They even have incentive programs to encourage people to change out the lighting systems they have. It just makes it more puzzling to me of why this would happen. The director seemed to think that even though people love turtles, when there is a lot of drinking and explosives involved then everything else goes out the door. On the FFWCC website I also found information on reporting dead, sick, or injured sea turtles. It said to call the 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) and to be prepared to answer the following questions:

What is the exact location of the animal?
Is the turtle alive or dead?
What is the approximate size of the turtle?
Is the turtle marked with spray paint? (This may indicate that the turtle has been previously documented.)
What is the location of the closest access point to the turtle?

If the turtle is alive they ask that you stay with it until help arrives. This help line appears to be more directed towards older turtles but I believe it could still be used for hatchlings.

On a side note, an adorable loggerhead hatchling was brought into the hospital last week so I've been learning all about treatment of these little guys. Normally hatchlings wouldn't remain in the hospital but this one had ulcers on its eyes and is undergoing treatment to try to prevent future blindness. We also have over a dozen nests here that should have hatchlings emerging in the next month.

Cheers, Heather

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