Lawsuit Launched in Florida to Protect Endangered Sea Turtles From Singer Island Seawalls

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—(ENEWSPF)–August 6, 2015.  Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Florida Department of Environmental Protection today for authorizing construction of seawalls that destroy endangered sea turtle nesting habitat on Singer Island in South Florida. The seawalls, constructed by condominium associations, illegally block access to, and destroy, nesting habitat of endangered and threatened loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles that come to shore every year to lay their eggs. Singer Island is a high-density nesting beach with more than 1,000 nests in just over a mile.

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling courtesy USFWS. 

The conservation groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club and Florida Wildlife Federation, and are represented by Earthjustice.

“The state of Florida is recklessly permitting seawalls that destroy Florida’s beautiful beaches, harm sea turtles and do nothing to protect Florida from rising seas,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Governor Scott and our state regulators need to get their heads out of the sand and protect our precious beaches and adopt real, proactive measures to give Florida a fighting chance to survive climate change.”

“Beaches are dynamic in nature, and when a seawall is constructed along a shoreline undergoing long-term net erosion, such as Singer Island, the shoreline migrates landward toward the structure,” said Todd Remmel, coastal preservation liaison with the Palm Beach County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “The result is an increase in erosion, a loss of beach and a lack of public access. Beaches are unique coastal environments with ecological, recreational and economic value. As human activities and development in coastal areas continue to increase, the need for preservation of beaches becomes ever more apparent.”

All three sea turtle species are protected under the Endangered Species Act from activities that hurt them, including alteration of habitat. For the turtles to nest successfully, beaches must be relatively unimpeded from the mean high-water line to the toe of the second dune, have sand suitable for nest construction, be sufficiently dark, and support natural coastal processes. In Florida many beaches have been degraded due to encroaching development. Seawalls must be as far landward as practicable and require replenishment of high-quality sand lost to erosion in order to be protective of sea turtles.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s permitting of beach wall projects is harming nesting sea turtles, in violation of federal law. Beaches naturally migrate, but when waves hit a walled beach, the wave energy moves sand away from the shore and ultimately narrows the width of the beach. Seawalls can also block access to suitable nesting habitat. The walls reduce nesting habitat, displace sea turtles to poor nesting habitat, increase the energy needed to nest, decrease nesting activity, decrease nesting habitat quality, and can entrap nesting turtles.

“Like so many of us, sea turtles love Singer Island. It has one of the highest nesting densities of turtles in North America,” said Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller. “DEP needs to require measures that will protect turtles, and decrease erosion.  This means pushing seawalls farther back and maintaining the dune systems in front of them.”

“We Floridians love our sea turtles, and we need to make changes in the way we build that will protect them,” said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club. “By minimizing the most destructive type of seawalls and increasing dune restoration with native plants, we will see better results for people and turtles.”

“The Endangered Species Act protects sea turtles and their nests from being harmed or injured,” said Earthjustice attorney Alisa Coe. “DEP is allowing these walls without adequate protections with the knowledge that they harm turtles. Protecting our beaches from climate change doesn’t mean just protecting our property, it means protecting our turtles too.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit surfrider.org.

The Florida Wildlife Federation is a private, statewide, nonprofit citizens’ conservation education organization composed of thousands of concerned Floridians and other citizens from all walks of life who have a common interest in preserving, managing, and improving Florida’s fish, wildlife, soil, water, and plant life. FWF has been keeping the wild in Florida since 1936.

Founded by legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is now the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters. Its successes range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.

Earthjustice is a nonprofit law firm which uses the power of law and the strength of partnership to make sure that those we entrust with budgetary, enforcement and oversight decisions abide by the law. Learn more at www.earthjustice.org

Source: www.beyondpesticides.org