Light pollution impacts sea turtles’ ability to make it to the water

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Sea turtle. Credit: Karl Werner.

Light pollution is impacting the region to the point it’s causing sea turtles to head in the wrong direction. Sea turtles’ instincts when they hatch are to follow the light.

We look at what we can all do to help make sure the sea turtles get into the water.

“We were having our peak nesting season about two months ago,” said Andrew Glinsky, a research associate Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “Now, we’re just having tons of nests hatching every single night.”

As the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation found out, there’s also a spike in hatchling disorientation.

“Disorientations typically happen on a beach at night when the turtles are hatching because turtles use the lightest part of the horizon to navigate,” Glinsky said.

Much of the beachfront and properties close to the coast stay dark.

“Folks recognize what a special place Sanibel is and are willing to take steps that benefit wildlife,” said Holly Milbrandt, the deputy natural resources director for the City of Sanibel.

But light from further away can still have an impact. Sky glow from nearby cities can lead hatchlings down the wrong path.

“Sometimes they just crawl and get lost in the dunes,” Glinsky said. “They can end up on roads, in people’s pools and things like that.”

If you’d like to make you home sea turtle friendly, the conservancy recommends keeping lights low, shielded and pointed downward and long in wave length, meaning amber, orange or red in color.

Experts add, even if you don’t live along the coast, there is a way to help.

“They can take it into their own hands on their own homes and businesses and not use excessive light,” said Stacey Gallagher, the development coordinator for the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

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