The DEP Office of Beaches and Coastal Systems issue permits for activities on the beach. However, if turtle concerns are an issue, the applicant and the DEP will coordinate with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The following are specific issues and concerns raised by the DEP:
Filming On The Beach During Marine Turtle Nesting Season:
Five species of turtles (Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley) nest on Florida’s Atlantic Ocean and Gulf front beaches. Florida is the most important nesting ground for loggerhead turtles in the Western Hemisphere. In Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward Counties, nesting season is March 1 – October 31. However, in the remainder of the state, nesting season is May 1 – October 31. During nesting season, the nests of sea turtles can be buried anywhere on the beach. After an incubation period of from 45 to 70 days, small turtles, or hatchlings, make their way to just below the sand surface. The hatchlings can remain right at the surface during the day, awaiting night when they scurry across the sand to the water. To ensure protection of both nests and hatchlings, activities involving vehicles, construction of temporary sets, explosions, and other potentially harmful actions are not permitted on the beach during sea turtle nesting and hatching season.
Night Filming During Nesting Season:
The DEP strongly discourages nighttime filming on nesting beaches during the nesting season. Options that exist for nighttime shots include filming at beaches that face bays rather than the ocean, and the small beaches in the Big Bend area (Wakulla through Hernando counties). Nighttime filming is a concern because:
- The lights from filming can disorient nesting female and hatchling turtles (causing them to crawl toward the lights rather than the ocean, where they can succumb to predators, become trampled or run over, or die of dehydration).
- The noise and activity on the beach from a filming event can disturb nesting females, causing them to abandon their nesting attempt.
- The potential for nest crawls to be obscured and hatchlings to be crushed exists when the film crews are working in the dark.
However, the DEP will consider quiet filming conducted with night vision equipment and without lights (as found in some nature films). If the filming is of turtles, a letter of permission from the FWC is required.
Use of lights during the daytime hours (between sunrise and sunset) is perfectly acceptable.
Structures/Props On The Beach:
Structures on the beach can be a concern because:
- A structure can be inadvertently placed on top of a nest, damaging the nest or preventing hatchlings from emerging.
- If excavation is required to place the structure, the nest could become exposed and eggs broken.
- The structure could function as a barricade, preventing nesting turtles from accessing the beach and causing them to abandon their nesting attempts.
Structures on the beach during the marine turtle season are not totally out of the question. The following basic precautions would minimize the potential harm to turtles:
- The structure can be placed on the beach without any excavation or digging of the sand, or use of equipment heavier than an ATV.
- The beach has an ongoing turtle nesting survey in which all nests are being marked. The applicant has the turtle survey person on site during structure placement.
- The structure can be removed each night, and no materials are put out in the morning before the turtle survey is complete.
Special Effects, Stunts, and Miscellaneous Concerns:
The following are some concerns that the DEP has addressed in the past:
- Pyrotechnics – fireworks, or other similar brief flashes of light of no more than a few seconds duration, are of minimal concern. They do not last long enough to disturb the turtles (though repeated flashes and noise could potentially disturb nesting females ).
- Blazing fires can disorient nesting females and hatchlings. Each year we have several incidents of hatchlings crawling to their deaths into illegal bonfires on the beach. We generally do not permit fires at night during nesting season.
- Driving on the beach, particularly heavy equipment or stunt car driving, is a concern. This has the potential to excavate sand, impact turtle nests, or leave ruts in which hatchlings can become entrapped.
Off Limit Areas or Locations
The small, marshy beaches of Wakulla, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, and Hernando counties are excluded. However, filming in these areas is possible provided that all props and materials are removed and the beach is restored to its original condition before nesting season begins.
Time Limitations Or Constraints
Filming on the beach during turtle season is possible under some circumstances. The DEP will work with producers on a case-by-case situation.