Holiday decorating with sea turtles in mind

Issue 3, 2017

Holiday decorating with sea turtles in mind

By Stacey Marquis

This holiday season, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s (STC) lighting team is giving sea turtles in the Florida Panhandle a priceless gift: beachfront properties with sea turtle friendly lighting. As the 2017 nesting season comes to a close, it’s important to understand and make arrangements for marine turtle friendly beaches throughout the year. During sea turtle nesting season, you may know that removing beach furniture at night and picking up trash keeps the beach safe for sea turtles. While these actions are a great start, there is more that you can do during the winter months. One of the best ways you can help sea turtles and ensure you are adhering to your local lighting ordinance is to change your beachfront lights to wildlife certified fixtures and bulbs. This should be done before the next nesting season.

If your property has unshielded lighting fixtures with white bulbs, nesting females may be deterred from nesting, but if they do nest nearby, hatchlings may emerge and crawl toward your lights instead of crawling toward the ocean. Hatchlings may even become disoriented and wander aimlessly around the beach for hours, burning up the valuable energy that they need to make it out to sea. This can be  prevented by practicing the three golden rules of turtle friendly lighting for your beachfront home:

1. “Keep it shielded”. Shielding an exterior lighting fixture directs the light downward and away from the beach. Shielding a fixture or bulb also prevents the light source from being seen from the beach.

2. “Keep it long” (wavelength). Sea turtles are less affected by long wavelength light (560 nanometers and above), which is used by by wildlife certified amber or red LED bulbs. White bulbs utilize short wavelength light which gives off violet, green and blue light on the electromagnetic spectrum. Wildlife certified amber LED bulbs will save you energy, provide a candlelit ambiance and protect sea turtles.

3. “Keep it low”. By lowering a light on your property, it decreases the chance that a sea turtle will see it from the beach and become disoriented. Keeping it low often puts light closer to where it needs to be depending on the application, such as on a sidewalk or pathway.

To find out where to buy turtle friendly fixtures and bulbs, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s wildlife certified website here:

To learn more about turtle friendly lighting, visit STC’s beachfront lighting website at