Mechanical Beach Cleaning Guidelines
Beach cleaning involves the removal of material left by the tides or beach goers on Florida's sandy shorelines. Stranded seaweed provides an important food source for beach and near-shore food chains, and should be left in place when possible. Human debris can pose a hazard to humans and animals, and should be removed. The use of mechanized beach cleaning equipment is limited during certain times of the year when threatened and endangered sea turtles are nesting. Those beach cleaners willing to commit to special protections for sea turtles can continue to operate and share the beach with Florida's sea turtles.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulates mechanized beach cleaning under the Florida Beach & Shore Preservation Act, Florida Statute 161. In order for beach cleaning to occur during nesting season, FWC and DEP have developed special conditions to protect marine turtles, their nests and hatchlings. In higher density areas where marking every nest is not feasible, non-mechanical methods of cleaning, such as hand raking, may be necessary.
Because of the high density of turtle nests in Brevard through Broward Counties, special protection measures are required during the sea turtle nesting season (March 1 through October 31) to protect nests:
- Cleaning can only occur seaward of the high tide line and only during the day.
- Cleaning can only occur after a Marine Turtle Permit Holder authorized by FWC
has surveyed the beach for sea turtle nests .
- It is the beach cleaner's responsibility to contract with a Permit Holder to conduct
nesting surveys during nesting season.
- If no surveys are done, no cleaning can occur for up to 65 days or until after
the end of the nesting season.
- The Permit Holder must mark all nests within 10 feet of the high tide line.
- Only equipment with 10-PSI tire pressure can operate on the beach.
- Cleaning equipment must not penetrate more than two inches into the beach surface.
- All material collected must be removed from the beach.
- Cleaning equipment must stay at least 10 feet from salt-tolerant vegetation.
- During the marine turtle nesting season (May 1 to October 31), mechanical beach cleaning activities shall be confined to daylight hours (sunrise to sunset).
- During marine turtle nesting season (May 1 to October 31), the permittee is responsible for ensuring that a daily marine turtle nest survey, protection, and monitoring program is conducted throughout the permitted beach cleaning area. Such surveys and associated conservation measures shall be completed after sunrise and prior to the commencement of any mechanical beach cleaning. The marine turtle survey, protection, and monitoring program shall be conducted only by individuals possessing appropriate expertise in the protocol being followed and a valid F.A.C. Rule 68E-1 Permit issued by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
- In the event that mechanical beach cleaning occurs prior to completion of the marine turtle nest survey, protection, and monitoring program, mechanical beach cleaning shall not occur landward of the wrack or debris line on that beach until 65 days have passed or after November 30, whichever is earlier. The permittee shall contact the Marine Turtle Permit Holder prior to reinitiating mechanical beach cleaning in that area.
- All nests left in place shall be marked with a circle of tape or string having a radius of at least three (3) feet, centered at the approximated location of the clutch. An additional marker shall be placed at the base of the dune or seawall to ensure that future location of the nests will be possible should the on-beach markings be lost. No mechanical cleaning equipment is allowed inside of this circle; however, careful removal of material by hand is allowed. All equipment operators should be briefed on the types of marking utilized and should be able to easily contact the individual responsible for the nest survey to verify any questionable areas.
- In the event that on-beach nest markers are lost for any reason, including vandalism or high water conditions, no mechanical beach cleaning shall be conducted until the marine turtle permit holder identifies the nest and restores the markers. In the event that the nest cannot be found and may have been lost during high water conditions, the permittee shall contact FWC staff at (850) 922-4330 to determine if mechanical beach cleaning can resume. All marine turtle protection conditions shall remain in effect unless specifically waived in writing by FWC.
- In order to avoid adverse impacts in the event that cleaning accidentally occurs over a nest, mechanical beach cleaning equipment shall not penetrate more than two inches into the surface of the beach. This permit authorizes the use of a vehicle with a maximum tire pressure of 10 p.s.i. and a rake or cleaning apparatus that limits penetration into the surface of the beach to a maximum of two inches. Box blades and front or rear mounted blades are not authorized. No other types of vehicles may be operated on the beach pursuant to this permit. Mechanized beach cleaning shall be accomplished so that no ruts are formed on the beach.
- Burial or storage of any debris (biotic or abiotic) collected is prohibited seaward of the 50 foot setback. Removal of accumulated debris from the beach must occur immediately after cleaning has been performed.
- Operators of mechanical beach cleaning equipment shall avoid all native, salt tolerant dune vegetation by a minimum of 10 feet.
Beach Cleaning Common Questions
To clean the beach using mechanized equipment, you need a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. You may also need a permit from your County or City.
Nesting habitat includes all sandy beaches adjoining the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Straits of Florida in all coastal counties and all inlet shorelines of those beaches (F.A.C. 62B-55.003). On the beach, nesting habitat extends from the high tide line to the top of the dune or seawall.
Sea turtle nesting season starts March 1 in Brevard through Broward Counties (where most leatherback nesting occurs). In all other counties, May 1 is the start of sea turtle nesting season. Although most nesting is finished by September, the nesting season extends through October 31, when most eggs have hatched (F.A.C. 62B-55).
You may request to bury organic matter in the wet portion of the beach on an ebb tide. All other material must be removed immediately from the beach.
Data on the number of sea turtle emergencies are used to determine the "status" of sea turtle species whether they're endangered or threatened. The state has worked hard to standardize their survey procedures to provide the best data possible. It is impossible to assess turtle tracks, or to determine whether the turtle nested or not, on a beach after mechanical cleaning has occurred.
To report someone disturbing a sea turtle nest or an injured, dead, or harassed Sea Turtle
Call: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)
Cellular phone *FWC or #FWC
To obtain a mechanized beach cleaning permit:
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) 850-245-2118
To find a Marine Turtle Permit Holder:
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) 1-561-882-5975
To report unauthorized beach cleaning:
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission 850-488-7708