Tourists or Turtles?
In recent years sea turtles have been transformed into an iconic symbol of oceanic conservation, and this could not be more prevalent than right here in Florida. In addition to being one of Florida’s most famed state symbols, almost all of the sea turtle species that nest in Florida are endangered, rendering each one of them incredibly valuable to our state as a whole. Broward County, the second largest sea turtle nesting habitat in the entire world, has strived continuously to raise environmental awareness and responsibility across the community, even integrating sea turtles and other indigenous wildlife into our public school science curriculum. Despite the County’s policies toward sea turtle conservation, the city of Hollywood is preparing to desecrate and demolish nesting sites that have existed undisturbed for decades, or even centuries, by deciding to construct a gargantuan, frivolous, tequila-flooded monolith that threatens the entire beach ecosystem as we know it: Margaritaville.
The destruction of a relatively small nesting area may seem like a minor blow to the species of sea turtles that nest there, but in actuality the turtles possess one of the lowest birth rates and highest mortality rates of any species on earth. The turtles lay only 400 eggs every two years, and only one in one thousand of these will survive into adulthood and nest again. Considering, that every species of turtle that nests in Broward county is either threatened or endangered, all of them are already in constant danger of extinction. The destruction of this beach will be a significant blow to the turtle population.
The constant lighting the Margaritaville resort will require to accommodate its guests will ultimately serve as the greatest weapon against the turtles. From the moment they are born, sea turtles are attracted to light, which guides them to sea and directs where they place their nests. The massive array of streetlights and signs along Hollywood Boardwalk already kill hundreds of them each year. Creating a massive, constantly neon-lit resort on the beach itself will prevent any hope of coexistence between city residents and the turtles. Once hatched, the turtles will frantically crawl not towards the sea, and in effect a chance at life, but will rather march toward their doom in the resort.
Sea turtles are an integral part of the ocean ecosystem, feeding on a wide variety of animals and keeping population levels stable, ensuring the ecological health of both the sea and dune ecosystems. For example, sea turtles are one of few organisms that feed on underwater sea grass, which left unchecked would cause drastic changes in fish and shrimp population levels, greatly reducing fishing profits. The many plants that grow on the beaches and dunes sea turtles dig their nests into depend on the unfertilized eggs and shells for nutrients, and these plants in turn improve the health of the entire beach ecosystem. They fortify the sand and reduce erosion, which over time can demolish vast stretches of beach and prevent any life from inhabiting the area, reducing Florida’s teeming beaches into coastal deserts. There will simply be no beach for the resort to use as the sand constantly erodes into the ocean, essentially removing the very reason it was built.
The residents of Hollywood and Broward county as a whole are now faced with a simple choice: Whether sunscreen-soaked tourists and a few more tropical themed bars outweigh the lives of one of Florida’s oldest and most beneficial species. We have nothing to gain by destroying animals that do nothing more than preserve and symbolize the very beaches we revere. We do not want our local eco-system wasting away because of Margaritaville.