Sea turtles are guided toward the ocean by the natural reflection of the moon or stars off of the surf. Artificial lighting, which is common along beachfront property, creates a serious threat for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. Artificial lights may disorient turtles and cause them to travel away from the ocean instead of toward it. However, there are ways that property owners can make changes to beachfront lights to prevent them from being visible to turtles on the beach.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offers a list of suggestions for modifying beachfront lighting, several of which are listed below.
- Turn off unnecessary lights. Don't use decorative lighting (such as runner lights or vegetation up lighting) in areas that are visible from the beach and permanently remove, disable, or turn off fixtures that cannot be modified in any other way.
- For lights that can be repositioned, face them away from the beach so that the light source is no longer visible.
- Shield the light source. Materials such as aluminum flashing can be used as a shield to direct light and keep it off the beach. When shielding lights, it is important to make sure they are shielded from all areas on the beach (including from either side and on top), and not just from the beach directly in front of the light. Black oven paint may be used as a temporary solution.
- Replace incandescent, fluorescent, and high intensity lighting with the lowest wattage low-pressure sodium vapor lighting or replace white incandescent bulbs with the yellow "bug" light variety of 25 watts or less for incandescent and 9 watts or less for compact fluorescent. The best technology available for sea turtle friendly lighting is a Red or Amber LED.
Additional information about wildlife lighting and examples of types of lighting is available on the FWC's website.
Reporting Beachfront Lighting Concerns
To report any beach lighting concerns, please contact the City of Fort Lauderdale's Code Enforcement Division at 954-828-5207 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Fort Lauderdale's SR A1A Light Replacement Project
The City of Fort Lauderdale is also doing its part to protect sea turtles and hatchlings.
Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the City has made significant progress toward decreasing the amount of artificial light on the beach to protect the sea turtles and minimize disorientations.
The City is currently investing $2 million to further enhance the safety and protection of sea turtles by replacing more than 100 city-owned acorn-style lights along the east and west sides of A1A from Fort Lauderdale Beach Park to Sunrise Boulevard (see photo at right).
The FWC approved, turtle compliant light fixtures were designed by City engineers to specifically illuminate the sidewalk and roadway without shining any light on the sand (see photo at left). These lights have also been approved by the FWC for use in other cities in South Florida.
The $2 million project is being funded through a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Construction is currently underway and is expected to be completed in March.
By minimizing artificial light sources, the project will enhance coastal and marine habitat and provide an improved environment for turtle nesting. By decreasing light visible from the sand, the new fixtures are expected to help increase the number of turtle nests, reduce the incidence of turtle disorientations, and result in a higher number of healthy hatchlings making their way into the ocean.
The video below provides additional information about proper sea turtle lighting and other steps that can be followed to help ensure their protection: