Beachfront Lighting: Interior Light, Skyglow and Temporary Lighting

Exterior property lights are not the only source of problematic beachfront lighting for sea turtles. Interior lighting, skyglow from nearby cities and temporary lighting can also lead to sea turtle disorientations, but they are often harder to address than exterior lighting.  

Interior Lighting

It is clear why beachfront property owners and visitors want to stay on the beach – for the magnificent view of the ocean. Once the sun sets, however, their view is obscured, but the light emanating from their interior windows makes its way onto the beach and can disorient sea turtles.

To stop interior light from trespassing onto the beach, visitors and residents can use the combination of window coverings, such as blinds or curtains; moving light sources away from windows; and utilizing window tinting at 15% transmittance. Most sea turtle lighting ordinances, and the State of Florida’s Model Lighting Ordinance for Sea Turtle Protection recommend 45% tint transmittance or lower, which still allows a lot of light onto the beach that could disorient sea turtles. The darker your window tint, the better it will protect nesting and hatchling sea turtles from disorientation. Click the video below to learn about how to protect sea turtles using window tinting.

 

 

Temporary Lighting

In recent years, sea turtle biologists, nest surveyors, code enforcement personnel and conservation organizations have reported an increase in temporary lighting use from the public such as white flashlights and cell phone use on the beach for nighttime recreational activities. This emerging trend poses a threat to nesting beaches, even in areas that have undergone a lighting retrofit and are considered sea turtle friendly. White flashlights are full spectrum, which means they contain both short and long wavelengths; short wavelength light disorients sea turtles.

One way that people have tried to mitigate this problem is by distributing these popular flashlight stickers. When a person attaches it to the lens on their flashlight or cell phone light, the light appears red. However, despite the red appearance, filters do not alter the wavelength of light (as confirmed by spectrometer readings) and can still negatively affect sea turtles.

Red LED flashlights and headlamps are also advertised to the public as a turtle friendly alternative. Even though red flashlights or red headlamps can actually be long wavelength, the intensity of a long wavelength flashlight still poses a threat to nesting females and hatchling sea turtles.

For the public (residents and visitors) the only turtle friendly solution is to not use any lights on the beach. The public can participate in alternative activities that do not come at the expense of wildlife. These include; stargazing, enjoying the beach at night without flashlights, fishing from sea turtle friendly piers and looking for bioluminescence. Click the video below to learn more about the emerging threat of temporary lights.

 

Skyglow from Nearby Cities

Skyglow is the amount of cumulative artificial light in the nighttime sky, also known as light pollution. Skyglow can come from concerts, restaurants. housing communities, parks and any other source of nighttime light. Skyglow happens because lights are left on at night. The light sources can vary from neighborhoods, parks, restaurants, concerts and overall highly populated areas.

Although some beaches can be dark at night, there is still that artificial light source illuminating the sky. Research show that even dark beaches still suffer from skyglow. To address skyglow from nearby cities, residents can retrofit their lights with wildlife friendly alternatives, turn off their exterior lights at night, or encourage their local government to adopt a Dark Sky ordinance.

To download educational materials on sea turtles and lighting, visit the Education and Outreach page.

Program Overview

Lighting and Dune Projects

Turtle Friendly Lighting Examples

How You Can Help

If you live in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee or Collier counties and are interested in retrofitting your beachfront property, call STC at 352-373-6441.