In Florida in 2007, an estimated 64,433 sea turtle hatchlings were disoriented by artificial light pollution caused primarily by unshielded light fixtures and short wavelength (white) bulbs on multi-family dwellings. On average, nearly 3% of all nests deposited in the state each year are disoriented (1,350 in 2009). FWCC estimates that there are currently between 700 and 1,000 private properties with problem lighting on Florida beaches. Since new coastal developments are required to adhere to stringent state-approved lighting plans for the protection of sea turtles, the ability to systematically fix lights at older, existing developments presents an important opportunity to achieve long-lasting conservation benefits for Florida's sea turtle nesting populations.
Existing problematic lights can be retrofitted with shielding while waiting to be replaced with new sea turtle friendly fixtures. To improve a light that is problematic for sea turtles, shield the fixture so the light source (i.e. bulb) is no longer visible from the beach, make sure all light is being directed down and use a red or amber LED bulb. Shielding a fixture that shines in all directions will actually increase the amount of light reaching the ground where you want it. You can purchase a shield for most fixtures or you can make a shield with materials such as heat dispersing aluminum flashing (available at most hardware stores).
After identifying properties with lights causing disorientations, STC's lighting staff experts work with property owners to design a lighting retrofit plan. Once all parties agree to the proposed modifications, STC provides partial funding to help replace all the problem lights and fixtures with the best-available "turtle friendly" lights for each situation. The retrofitted fixtures redirect light away from the beach to where it is needed; the light source itself is shielded from view on the beach, and the actual light sources are converted to high efficiency LED bulbs in the amber or red long wavelength spectrum (which is far less disorienting to sea turtles).
Utilizing this strategy, STC already has corrected lighting problems at over 40 large beachfront properties—in each case retrofitting an average of 53 unshielded fixtures and short wavelength bulbs at each property. The program continues to correct lighting problems at large, multi-family condos and resorts around Florida with the most egregious histories of causing turtle disorientations. The project already has measurably reduced disorientation rates in front of the properties where lighting retrofits have occurred, and as STC continues to add new properties to the project our efforts will directly save the lives of thousands of hatchlings each and every year.
Beachfront lighting can be properly managed to benefit humans and sea turtles. In general, a good sea turtle friendly lighting fixture directs light down to the ground where it is needed for safety, shields the light source from being visible from the beach, and is outfitted with a red or amber LED light bulb. When choosing lighting for your coastal property, please remember these three simple rules:
1. KEEP IT LOW – Low mounting height and low bulb wattage. Flood, spot and pole lighting are highly discouraged.
2. KEEP IT SHIELDED – Use full cut-off fixtures that direct the light down to the ground. Shield fixtures so you cannot see the bulb, lamp or glowing lens.
3. KEEP IT LONG – Sea turtles are less disturbed by the long wavelengths of light (570 nanometers or longer), such as lights that are yellow, amber, or red in color.