Protecting Sea Turtles with Wildlife-Friendly Lighting


Nesting beaches for sea turtles were impacted during the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Trustees are implementing an early restoration project that is helping nesting sea turtles by reducing the impacts of lighting on beach habitat. The $4.3 million project is improving lighting in many nesting locations along the Florida and Alabama coasts. 

Lighting may not seem important to beach goers, but it can make all the difference for sea turtle hatchlings. That's because sea turtles typically hatch at night and, on an undeveloped beach, are drawn to the lighter horizon of the ocean. The bright white lights of coastal development cause hatchlings to get disoriented. We are replacing these white lights with amber light emitting diodes (LEDs), among other lighting improvements. 

Amber-colored LEDs can greatly reduce this effect on sea turtles. Ben Frater, a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service restoration biologist, explains that, "Sea turtle eyes are adapted to see underwater, where they spend 99.9 percent of their lives. They don't have the ability to see amber wavelengths so they simply don't see the light coming from the LEDs. That's why these lights don't attract the sea turtles."

Sea turtles hit the jackpot at Casino Beach 

As part of this project, substantial improvements can be seen at Casino Beach on Florida's Santa Rosa Island. We partnered with Gulf Power, the Santa Rosa Island Authority, and Escambia County on the project. We replaced 21 light poles, each bearing 250-watt bulbs, with 38 shorter poles, most bearing four 100-watt LED light fixtures. Public reaction to the lights so far has been positive. "Everyone here is turtle-friendly, so we're happy these lights will help turtles," said W.A. "Buck" Lee, Santa Rosa Island Authority executive director.