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How wildlife is protected during beach projects

Posted on March 11, 2024

Trucks are delivering 400,000 tons of sand to Sanibel’s beaches for a post-Hurricane Ian restoration project that began in December. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is monitoring wildlife during the project, which will be completed in April prior to sea turtle nesting season.

The SCCF reported that whenever such beach construction projects occur on Sanibel or Captiva, it plays a role in ensuring the safety of beach-nesting wildlife, like shorebirds and sea turtles. By serving as permitted monitors, the SCCF observes and collects daily data on the status of wildlife and nesting activities within and surrounding construction areas.

“While the permitting agencies make the final decision regarding when and where projects are approved, our staff will continue working hard to minimize impacts to coastal wildlife,” Coastal Wildlife Director and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Kelly Sloan said.

The SCCF has no involvement in planning or approving the projects, but wildlife staff are contracted to monitor the projects after the permits have been issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and/or Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

– Permitted wildlife monitors may be required for various types of beach projects, including renourishment, dredging or seawall placement.

SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION Federally-threatened red knots next to a construction site.

– When monitoring beach projects, the SCCF works with the city of Sanibel’s Natural Resources Department, Captiva Erosion Prevention District and Lee County to ensure that coastal wildlife are monitored and protected.

– Sea turtle monitoring must be added as an authorized activity under the Marine Turtle Permit Holder’s permit.

The SCCF reported that in most cases, staff monitor the beach each day for sea turtle and shorebird activity before construction work can begin and coordinate with the appropriate state and federal agencies if any issues arise.

For projects permitted by the DEP, there are typically special conditions from the FWC pertaining to protected species that may be impacted by the work. Work being conducted under emergency orders may be subject to different terms.

Some projects require a Biological Opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which analyzes the effects of the proposed project to any species listed under the Endangered Species Act and/or federally designated critical habitats.



The SCCF reported that Sanibel is home to state-threatened beach nesting birds, including snowy plovers and least terns.

Any project that may impact nesting shorebirds from Feb. 15 to Aug. 31 requires daily monitoring by Imperiled Beach-nesting Bird (IBNB) Permitted Monitors, which are individuals with shorebird survey and identification training. Both of the SCCF’s shorebird staff have the qualification. IBNB monitors collect and enter data into the Florida Shorebird Database, which is the FWC’s database for statewide shorebird and seabird nest monitoring.

Contractors or municipalities looking to start a beach project can use tools like the FWC’s Shoremapper to identify potential shorebird nesting locations. Early identification of the sites allows project managers to plan ahead to minimize impacts to birds and their habitat.

If a project requires a permit with an associated Biological Opinion, then additional monitoring is required during the non-breeding season for federally-threatened species, including piping plovers and red knots. Trained biologists must record all shorebird species seen and collect additional data for the target species, including flock size, location, behavior, habitat,and if any are banded birds. All of the data is submitted to the USFWS.


The SCCF reported that projects with the potential to impact nesting sea turtles, sea turtle nests or hatchlings require an authorized marine turtle monitor. For Sanibel and Captiva projects, it takes on the additional responsibilities as the organization with the permit for sea turtle monitoring on the beaches.

During nesting season — May 1 to Oct. 31, with SCCF monitoring beginning as early as April 15 — work areas are surveyed for any turtle activity first thing in the morning. Work can only begin once the area has been surveyed and monitors have given the “all clear.”

In some instances, all nests must be relocated from an area before work can begin. This monitoring and any associated relocation of nests must be added as an additional authorized activity under the Marine Turtle Permit Holder’s permit.

Nests are moved from an area where work is currently occurring or where work will be occurring within a newly laid nest’s incubation duration — 65 days — and moved to an area without construction project activity. It prevents eggs and hatchlings from being buried under large amounts of placed sand and instead affords the nest greater opportunity for success in a suitable incubation environment.


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