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Animal rights group claims Palm Beach isn't protecting sea turtles

Bear Warriors United alleges light violations, poor nest marking, issues with tracks and vehicles on sand
Posted at 11:38 PM, Jul 10, 2023

PALM BEACH, Fla. — The animal rights organization Bear Warriors United has issued a notice of intent to sue to the town of Palm Beach.

The nonprofit claims light violations, poor nest marking, issues with tracks and vehicles on the sand directly impact sea turtles.

"We are ready to file this lawsuit. It's pretty egregious what's going on at the beach," said Katrina Shadix, the executive director of Bear Warriors United, said.

Katrina Shadix, the executive director of Bear Warriors United, has given the town of Palm Beach 60 days to make changes involving the treatment of sea turtles before the group files the suit. July 10, 2023
Katrina Shadix, the executive director of Bear Warriors United, has given the town of Palm Beach 60 days to make changes involving the treatment of sea turtles before the group files a lawsuit.

With the notice, the town of Palm Beach now has 60 days to make changes before the group files the suit.

"How much evidence would you say you have compiled in this last month?" WPTV reporter Joel Lopez said.

"Oh we have lots of evidence we have so much video and pictures of violations that I had to get an external hard drive," Shadix said.
 
On the list: light violations.

Their pictures show condos and places like The Breakers with bright lights facing the beach.

"You can see their light from nighttime from a mile away it was lit up light the NASA launch pad," Shadix said. "Their lighting you can see from outer space I'm pretty sure."

Shadix said during nesting season artificial lights spook nesting turtles and confuse hatchlings away from the ocean.

Bear Warriors United has video evidence of violations involving sea turtles in Palm Beach town. July 10, 2023.
Bear Warriors United has video evidence of violations involving sea turtles in Palm Beach town.

Palm Beach County has an estimated 2 million hatchlings each year, leading the United States in sea turtle nests per mile, according to the Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management,

"Palm Beach doesn't have to reinvent the wheel, other beaches are doing it correctly and wonderfully to protect the turtles and for some reason Palm Beach isn't," Shadix said.
 
They're also calling for better markings of turtle nests, as many are just single stakes. And they claim some chairs are too close to the nests.

"Sea turtle nesting season they need to do a lot more enforcement, a lot more monitoring and a lot more respecting of the endangered species act," Shadix said.

Floodlights along the beach from The Breakers were turned off. July 10, 2023
Floodlights along the beach from The Breakers were turned off Monday night.

On Monday night, the floodlights along the beach from The Breakers were turned off, and no lawn chairs on the sand were set up around where nests are located.

"With Palm Beach being the richest ZIP code in the country, they have the money to mark turtle nests correctly and to educate the public as to what these stakes are and what the tapes are," Shadix said.

They also say tires are leaving tracks in the sand, and have footage of large vehicles being used to clean up seaweed.

"You can see that it had ran over some hatchlings and the other hatchlings were getting caught in the big ruts that the tires made and could not get out of it," Shadix said.
 
The Breakers has issued this statement:

"One of The Breakers’ long-standing sustainability commitments is marine life conservation, which includes sea turtles present in the resort’s diverse ecosystem. During sea turtle nesting season, The Breakers partners with a local ecological services company to facilitate mechanical beach cleaning activities that focus on daily morning sea turtle surveys and the marking of all nests per FWC Marine Turtle Guidelines. The Breakers’ lighting practices ensure the safety of pedestrian traffic on property, and the resort will continue to work with local government officials to confirm appropriate lighting guidelines are being met for both guests and the sea turtles."

Another concern by the group has been people on the beach after dark.

Footage they've collected shows one instance where a man with a metal detector starts digging right next to a sea turtle marking.

They also have video of another group with a dog that attacked a sea turtle as it was trying to return to sea after nesting.

WPTV also reached out to Palm Beach Mayor Danielle Moore, who said she would not comment on potential litigation.