An article on “The Effects of Light Pollution on Sea Turtle Nesting” provided by our friends at C.R.O.W. (the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) …
Approximately 90 percent of sea turtle nesting in the United States happens on Florida’s beaches, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
The most common nests in Southwest Florida are that of the Loggerhead. In a single nesting season, females can lay between 2 and 6 clutches of eggs, each containing anywhere between 65 to 180 eggs. Out of all the eggs laid during nesting season, it is estimated only one in approximately 1,000 hatchlings survive. Once hatched, the infants must navigate their way to the ocean quickly, risking dehydration and predation. If the hatchling successfully makes it into the ocean, they typically swim several miles offshore. From that point, they could be caught in currents and seaweed carrying them for years providing shelter and nutrition before growing large enough to return to nearshore waters.
Many natural threats can emerge during a sea turtle’s life, and they are especially vulnerable in the first years of their life. A new threat emerging, however, is human impact. Factors like light pollution, plastic pollution, and climate change can impact a turtle’s nesting season, the success of the hatchlings, and the future for many dwindling sea turtle populations.
When a sea turtle hatches, it will usually wait until the night to emerge from their nest. This reduces exposure to any daytime predators. Because of this, hatchlings will use the light of the moon to guide them into the ocean. With an increased popularity to have homes and resorts close to the beach, there is a growing concern that artificial light associated with an increase of urbanization can negatively affect the chances of hatchlings making it to the ocean. These artificial lights can disorient the hatchlings’ route to the sea.
According to a scientific study conducted by Silva et. al., artificial lighting reduced the nesting success of loggerhead turtles by 20 percent. This data shows enforcing light mitigation is essential in attempting to protect the population of sea turtles who nest in Florida.
To conserve sea turtle populations, be sure to keep lights off after sunset to allow hatchlings to follow only the light of the moon.
NOTE: For areas needing light for safety purposes, Ocean’s Reach utilizes red light in shielded, downward-directed turtle-friendly fixtures throughout our complex. Red light emits a very narrow portion of the visible light spectrum which, in turn, is less intrusive to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.
For more on sea turtle conservation, check out our Ocean’s Reach website here!