PANAMA CITY BEACH — The pier at St. Andrews State Park is back open after new turtle-friendly lights have been installed.
“We have completed the installation of the new sea turtle friendly ambient lights, and the pier is open for recreational use,” park officials wrote on the website. “I want to thank you for your patience as we upgrade our facilities to meet the current county and state codes for lights on the beach.”
The pier was closed starting April 23 — to the chagrin on fishermen hoping to catch the spring migration — and officials had a goal of having it reopened by the start of the turtle nesting season. A deadline they just made.
So far the Panama City Beach Turtle Watch has recorded one nest and two false crawls this season, according to their website.
Ahead of turtle season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a press release reminding people of the importance of turtle-friendly lighting, like the ones installed at St. Andrews.
“People’s efforts to keep our beaches as dark as possible at night, without affecting human safety, can make a tremendous difference for nesting sea turtles,” said Robbin Trindell of the sea turtle management program, in a release. “Female sea turtles and their hatchlings can be disturbed or confused by artificial light, whether it comes from a house, a flashlight or a cellphone camera.”
The FWC recommends shielded lights to direct the glow down and amber LED lights for permanent fixtures that can’t be turned off.
Lights have continued to be a problem for turtles nesting and hatching along Panama City Beach, despite efforts. Last year, there was a record number of nests, at 57, and it was the first season loggerheads, leatherback and green turtles all nested on the sandy beach.
But on the other hand, 72 percent of the hatchlings were disoriented by the lights, a dismal statistic that Kennard Watson, director of the Panama City Beach Turtle Watch, said last year has “unfortunately” remained stagnant.