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CEPD promotes ‘Lights Out For Sea Turtles’

By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

Earth’s most ancient creatures – sea turtles – are considered threatened or endangered. To protect endangered and threatened sea turtles along the county’s Gulf beaches, Lee County adopted an ordinance in 1998 protecting nesting sea turtles and sea turtle hatchlings from the adverse effects of artificial lighting.

The ordinance prohibits lighting along the beach during the May 1 through Oct. 31 sea turtle season. Code enforcement officers oversee lighting inspections and enforcement of the ordinance.

As the population of coastal communities has grown, so has the presence of detrimental artificial light, also known as light pollution. This ecological disturbance defers sea turtles from emerging from the sea to nest on the beach. Hatchling sea turtles that escape from nests on lighted beaches face exhaustion, dehydration, and possible death due to the sea finding behavior disruption caused by artificial light.

Sea turtle hatchlings that emerge from the nest have an instinct to crawl in the direction of the brightest light and to move away from darkly silhouetted surroundings. Mother Nature meant for the open view of the night sky reflected by the ocean to be the natural source of light attracting hatchling sea turtles. When artificial light sources can be seen on the beach, the sea finding behavior of hatchlings is jeopardized. The hatchlings will use the brightness cue and move toward the brighter artificial light source and away from the sea.

Lighting problems are easily manageable. Light is properly managed when it is not visible to a person standing anywhere on the beach. Darkening beaches for sea turtles can be accomplished through thoughtful exterior and interior lighting choices.

Exterior lighting can be reduced by:

Turning off lights

Reducing the number and the wattage of lights

Using low pressure sodium vapor lights

Positioning your lighting fixtures behind structures

Using shielded or recessed lighting

Lowering the position of lights so that they cannot be seen from the beach

Using timers and motion detectors to limit the time lights are on

To reduce the effect of interior lighting:

Close blinds

Tint windows

Move lamps away from windows

Please contact the Captiva Erosion Prevention District at 472-2472 for additional information.