How can a solid-state light, or LED, be a turtle friendly lighting alternative and save the lives of thousands of young sea turtles each year?
In South Florida, arguably the sea turtle capital of the United States, it is turtle nesting season. This typically runs from late March through October but May is the most active time. These tiny creatures begin to emerge from their gestation to surface on the beaches and start their dangerous journey into the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
Efforts have been made to protect nesting areas. Most female sea turtles return faithfully to the same beach each time they are ready to nest. Innate conditioning has instilled the instinct for the hatchlings to surface from the sand at night and orient themselves to the welcoming, safe harbor of the moon lit pristine waters. From here the young hatchlings are hidden from predators and dehydration. The juvenile turtles spend their first few years in the open oceans and then move to protected bays, estuaries and other near shore waters.
Human habitats, in the form of casinos, luxury high rises and beach homes, have emerged and created havoc for the sea turtles. At night, the artificial light emitted by these structures draw the hatchling sea turtles away from the waters and towards imminent death from dehydration, predators, and other man made dangers, like cars. In fact only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings make it to adulthood as they walk toward civilization and away from ocean waters.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are working with Gulf and Ocean front property owners to build solutions for reducing the intrusive lighting on the horizon. Colored incandescent lights were tried and failed. For years it seems no viable lighting option helped, until the idea of using turtle friendly lighting in the form of LED, was explored.
The benefits of LED lighting, including the reduced lumen output, directionality of the technology and longer spectrum of light wavelength, has had positive impacts.
In areas mandated by code and retrofitted to turtle friendly LED lighting, hatchling disorientation has diminished or completely disappeared and turtles have started nesting in areas which they avoided before.
Local laws and ordinances refer to “Turtle friendly lighting” and reducing light pollution. LED lights find themselves on the approved list of acceptable lighting and there are also sources of funding available to improve lighting to further protect sea turtles.
Next time you are at a beachfront hotel or any property on the shoreline during turtle nesting season, take note of the exterior lighting. If you see these little guys making their way to the ocean, you can thank the turtle friendly lighting using LEDs.