Thursday, May 3, 2012

Florida: Dim lights, it's May ... turtles are on their way

Rescue recovering at Juno
By Jane Feehan
Each year, between May and November, thousands of sea turtles come ashore in Florida to build nests and lay their eggs. Before the heavy development and population of the coastal areas, turtle hatchings found their way back into the ocean by instinct, following the silhouettes of dunes and vegetation and light from the sky.

Today, many of these habitats are overshadowed by towering condominiums or other edifices of densely populated areas that cast artificial light, disorienting turtle hatchlings as they take their first steps. Instead of trekking back into the ocean, they head inland and succumb to dehydration, fire ants, ghost crabs – or cars.

This may be the reason – scientists are not sure – that the loggerhead species of sea turtles are threatened and green sea turtles and leatherbacks are endangered. To protect these sea creatures, lighting ordinances have been adopted throughout the state of Florida since the late 1990s.
Rescued turtle recovering in Juno

Ordinances attempt to diminish or redirect artificial lighting, though turning lights off is the simplest way to deal with the issue. If that isn’t an option, there are three rules or guidelines to keep artificial lighting to a minimum:

  • Keep it LOW - mount the fixture as low as possible to minimize light trespass, and use the lowest amount of light needed for the task.
  • Keep it SHIELDED - fully shield the light so bulbs and/or glowing lenses are not visible to minimize light trespass.
  • Keep it LONG - use long wavelength light sources (ambers and reds) in the appropriate lighting fixtures.
There is also no solid data on the efficacy of lighting ordinances to protect turtles. Though lighting ordinances have been controversial over the years, many Florida residents have come to accept them. Residents often adopt protective lighting as a way of life for safety.
For more about where turtles recover from illness and injury in Juno Beach, see:

Could turtles dim the Hillsboro Lighthouse? See

Tags: sea turtles, Florida turtle lighting ordinances, turtle eggs, turtle hatchlings, protecting turtles

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