According to local ordinances designed to protect sea turtle nesting, all indoor and outdoor lights visible from the beach must be shielded, repositioned, replaced, or turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Also prohibited are bright beach lights, flashlights, flash cameras, video recorders, and other kinds of artificial lighting. The destruction of a sea turtle’s nest or hatchlings is also illegal. The Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance carries fines of up to $500 and six months in county jail for violators. Ordinances similar to the Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance are found in most beachside cities.
Why The Ordinance?
Over the past century, Florida’s coastline has become increasingly developed, posing a threat to sea turtles. In southwest Florida, there is a lot of artificial lighting emanating from condominiums, hotels, businesses, and homes. The females emerge from the water to find a suitable nesting location to lay their eggs at night, but artificial lighting on land may cause them to abandon their attempt. The females waste valuable energy when they abandon nesting attempts and may choose an unsuitable area to nest. Occasionally, nesting females can become disoriented by artificial light and wander for long distances on the beach. Occasionally, female turtles have been discovered on properties adjacent to the beach and even in residential swimming pools and roads because of crawling towards artificial light.
It is also possible for artificial lighting to affect sea turtle hatchlings. Hatchlings instinctively move away from dark silhouettes and toward the brightest horizon as soon as they emerge from their nests. For millions of years, dunes and vegetation near land cast dark shadows, and the moon and stars reflected off the water, creating a brilliant horizon. Nowadays, the brightest horizon is often the land due to the artificial lighting from businesses and homes on the developed beach. As a result, newly hatched turtles are frequently disoriented and crawl in the wrong direction on the beach, wasting energy they would use to swim to seaweed beds several miles offshore. Another risk of disorientation is dehydration, increased susceptibility to land predators, and contact with automobiles.
Does it Pertain to Where I Live?
All Gulf-Front construction is required to comply with the Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance laws. See if your county or municipality has adopted a lighting ordinance. You can use the interactive map to search for your municipality and county OR print the static map, which has each county and municipality listed. This map can be found at https://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/lighting/ordinances/. However, you can still safely move throughout your beachfront backyard and still comply with the Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance by installing sea turtle-safe lighting. Sea turtle safe lighting should be low, shielded, and have long waves of light.