Lights out to protect sea turtles

CLEARWATER — For hatchling sea turtles, artificial light is a killer. Instinct drives them from their nests on beaches towards the brightest horizon, ideally the waterline on an undeveloped coast.

But the bright lights of coastal development—street lamps, illuminated parking lots, and buildings—can disorient nesting, egg-laden female turtles and lure newly-hatched baby turtles towards artificial light sources. As hatchlings turn away from the sea to cross into streets and parking lots, they are invariably killed.

Sea turtle nesting season began last week and continues through Oct. 31.

Reducing the amount of artificial light that is visible from nesting beaches is the first step to reducing light pollution that affects sea turtles.

Coastal communities around the world have passed ordinances that require residents to turn off or dim beach front lights during this season. This precaution can reduce the amount of artificial light that reaches turtle nests and will help hatchlings reach the water safely.

The Tampa Bay area averages about 120 nests each season, and each nest can contain an average of 100 to 110 eggs.

Staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium monitor nearly 26 miles of Pinellas County’s coast line. If you find a turtle nest on the beach, don’t disturb it. If the nest is unmarked, notify aquarium staff at (727) 441-1790.

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