Florida Man Celebrates Earth Day With Sand Art, Leaves Death Traps For Sea Turtles

Trenches and holes left by a sand artist celebrating Earth Day 2016 created a hazard for endangered nesting sea turtles in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

COCOA BEACH, Florida - Trenches and holes left over from an Earth Day sand sculpture event that can act as death traps for endangered sea turtle hatchlings sparked outrage among some Cocoa Beach, Florida residents on Monday.

Artist Todd Brittingham created a giant Ouroborus by digging trenches in the sand on the beach in front of the International Palms Resort for his 28th Annual "Earth Work." The Fort Lauderdale, Florida man said that his sculpture is a "Sky Message ... in celebration of Earth Day to draw attention to the environment and the constant need to take care of it," FLORIDA TODAY reported.

The Earth Day art was scheduled to last just over the weekend. But on Monday morning, Cocoa Beach residents began posting photos on social media which showed deep trenches that had not been re-filled after the event. The trenches can act as death traps for both adult female sea turtles laying their eggs and the newly-hatched baby sea turtles, according to the Florida Audubon SocietyA depression just a few inches deep is enough to trap loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings.

It is against the City of Cocoa Beach's municipal ordinance to dig a trench or hole more than 18 inches. It is also against ordinance to " ... depart from the area of digging without having first completely filled such hole, trench or depression ..."

"The event at International Palms was not sanctioned by the City," Cocoa Beach Mayor Tim Tumulty said. "There was no request for a permit by International Palms or the artist. International Palms' response to the City was that they didn't know. I find that hard to believe as well. At this point, International Palms will potentially be fined by both the City and the State of Florida. If they fix the ruts by the end of the day, both would be more lenient."

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, both leatherback and loggerhead sea turtle nesting began on March 1st. Brevard County has more loggerhead nests each year than anywhere else in the United States. Last year, FWC counted 23,977 Loggerhead nests on Brevard County beaches. 

Brittingham said that he had thought the art was dug below the high tide mark and that the tide would have taken care of it last night. After residents called the City of Cocoa Beach to complain about the trenches on Monday morning, Brittingham returned to the beach later that day to fill in the trenches. 

"I'm very sensitive to people's concerns about the sea turtles," Brittingham said.

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