How LED Lighting can help protect Florida’s Sea Turtles
Even with all the treasure discovered right off the coast of Florida, I consider the Sea turtles to be the Florida’s real “treasure”. These magnificent marine reptiles have been an endangered species for decades and their population has continued to decline due to pollution, shrimp trawling and continued development in their nesting areas. The sea turtles found most often off the Florida coast include: the Leatherback, Loggerhead, Green Turtle, Hawksbill and the Kemp’s Ridley, a sea turtle which you’ll probably never come across since it’s the rarest sea turtle in the world. In Florida, the nesting season runs from April to September and hatching season is between June and October.
Artificial lighting used by condominiums and commercial properties directly on the beach can interfere with the natural behavior of adult and hatchling sea turtles. Sea turtles have a difficult time enough finding their way back to the ocean in the presence of artificial light. This often causes a phenomena known as disorientation, or “misorientation”. We’ve all read stories of sea turtle hatchings getting run over by crossing A1A instead of heading out to sea. Much of these incidents are caused by artificial lighting, which becomes an impediment to them reaching the ocean.
Light level, artificial or otherwise, is a strong cue when turtles seek nest site selection. Other cues include the light color, (also known as wavelength) brightness, horizon shape, continuity, silhouette and slope. Adult sea turtles prefer darker beaches. On the surface this might sound good for turtles–staying away from developments and activity on a well lit the beach. However, studies have found that beaches with high light levels often have lower nesting densities; or no nests at all. This drives turtles to the few remaining darkened beach areas. This hurts turtles since it concentrates nesting areas and adversely affects the mortality the rate of hatchlings.
Unfortunately, there is no simple measure of light intensity which can reveal whether or not a light source will be a problem. The effects of artificial lighting on sea turtles may actually increase as ambient light-levels decrease on moonless nights. Since we know any visible light from an artificial light source can cause problems the best judgment is still the eyes of a human observer on beach facing towards a property to check the lighting. Any light source producing light that is visible from the beach is likely to cause problems for nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings.
Most counties in the State of Florida with a coastline have passed lighting regulations which specifically cover the protection of sea turtles. Even in the counties which don’t have legislation protecting sea turtles, most of these cities are proactive in enacting their own sea turtle ordinances to help preserve the sea turtle’s nesting habitat. The State of Florida has developed a model lighting ordinance (62B-55, F.A.C.) to help guide local governments in creating lighting ordinances and is also Protected by Florida Marine Turtle Protection Act, Chapter 370.12, FL. Statutes.
How LED Lighting Helps
LED light technology has come a long way, even in the last five years. The solid state technology has multiple benefits, including lower energy consumption, directional light, much longer life, not easily damaged, non-toxic and flexible so they can be integrated with other technologies. These benefits alone should convince you to retrofit to LED. LEDs in red and amber, and design practices, such as fixtures being fully shielded, have been proven to significantly decrease the impacts of artificial light on sea turtles. New research into understanding turtle biology, along with advancements in lighting technologies such as LED are changing the requirements for turtle lighting on coastal areas.
Research scientist, conservationist and marine biologist now favor LED lighting for beach lighting since the use of amber colored LED luminaires are less disruptive to sea turtle hatchlings. Turtle eye receptors are very sensitive to different intensity and color wavelengths of light. Ultra violet, blue, or green spectrum being the most disruptive to their eye receptors. Turtle eye receptors are sensitive to shorter wavelengths of light <580nm. Although, other sources are accepted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), although none have the advantages of LED lighting. The only light sources that can be used are:
• Approved Red, Orange or Amber LED Light Bulbs with colored diodes and without color filters
• Low Pressure Sodium in 18 watt or 35 Watts only
• True Red Neon
• Approved Red or Orange Internally Phosphorus Fluorescent Tubes
Turtle friendly wall mount fixtures should emit light downwards and not allow light to trespass horizontally from the fixture. These fixtures need to be paired with the preferable amber LED Light source at a wavelength of 560nm. Even if naturally shielded from the beachside, caution should be used on higher level floors of buildings, and may require additional louvers or hoods to prevent the light source within from being visible on the beach from an angle. Other keys to lighting include:
•Reduce wattage of problem lighting, use Amber or Red LED
•Use directional luminaires, and do not direct lighting onto beach
•Replace bright pathway lighting with sunken strip lights or low 18-in shielded, louvered fixtures
•Shield lighting sources from the beach, opaque, large shields
•Recess luminaires into roof soffits
•Use low mounted fixtures with louvers or bollards as a substitute for tall pole mounted fixtures
•Reposition lights so natural shields (vegetation, buildings) block light
“KISS”, Keeping it Simple for Turtle Friendly Lighting
Keep lights low – Mount fixtures as low as possible to minimize light trespass, and use the lowest amount of light needed for the task at hand.
Shielding – Fully shield the light so bulbs and (or their lenses) are not visible to minimize light trespass to beaches.
Long- Use long wavelength light sources (Amber’s and Red’s) in the appropriate lighting fixtures.
The reality is, you might not be able to modify your existing fixtures to be shielded from the beach. This all depends on the style of fixture and design. If a light fixture mounted to the ceiling or wall emits light in every direction except the direction of the substrate, or surface it is mounted to, then it is considered non-friendly. For situations where you can add either a metal or dark plastic cover on the beach side, and completely eliminate the light trespass, then your fixture can be shielded. This requires that from any vantage point on the beach, the light source can never be seen, low or high tide.
In recent years advocates for sea turtles have come to believe the 1993 ordinance adopted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now not adequate enough to protect sea turtles nesting on our South Florida beaches. In the State of Florida the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) helps to protect and conserve marine sea turtles and their habitat through multiple agencies, including: The Division of Habitat and Species Conservation – Imperiled Species Management Section (ISM), The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and The Division of Law Enforcement (LE).
Fortunately, conservationists for sea turtles have pushed the Federal government enough so they have agreed to identify suitable nesting and migratory habitat for endangered loggerhead sea turtles. Under an agreement reached between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana, the Federal agency has until July 1 to propose protected feeding, breeding and migratory habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. waters in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After review by all concerned parties, the final critical habitat protections must be in place by July 1, 2014.
Most of the counties and municipalities in Florida that have passed ordinances prohibiting light from reaching the beach can be found on the Municipal Code Corporation web portal at: www.flrules.org/gateway/ChapterHome.asp?Chapter=62B-55.
So, if you’re ever so fortunate to come across a sea turtle laying her eggs please keep your distance. Sea turtles laying eggs are in a very stressful and vulnerable environment while nesting. Even if you come across a hatching don’t try to touch, or relocate it. Call the FWC and let them know. Moving a hatchling or eggs is a Federal crime and even people with the best of intentions have gone to jail for trying to relocate a hatching or moving eggs.
Websites: www.seaturtlelighting.net www.myfwc.com www.starrynightlights.com www.darksky.org www.seaturtlestatus.org www.conserveturtles.org www.seaturtle.org www.nmfs.gov www.savetheseaturtle.org
Check with BriteLEDLighting for other useful information on sea turtles and LED lighting products. www.BriteLEDLighting.com
Florida’s Sea Turtle License Plate
Funded by a portion of revenues from Florida’s Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate, the Sea Turtle Grants Program distributes funds each year to support sea turtle research, conservation and education programs that benefit Florida sea turtles.
Approximately 70% of the funding generated by sales of the tag goes to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Protection Program to support research and management activities related to sea turtles. Approximately 30% is distributed to the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The Sea Turtle Grants Program is administered by the non-profit Sea Turtle Conservancy.
Due Dates for 2014 – 2015 Funding Cycle:
|Deadline for Completed Proposals
Completion of review of Proposals
Proposals provided to Grant Committee
Committee Meeting to Award Funds*
|November 15, 2013 (by 5 PM)
January 31, 2014
February 7, 2014
March 24, 2014
Completed Grant Applications must be received on or before 5:00 PM, Friday, November 15, 2013 at the address below:
Sea Turtle Grants Program
Sea Turtle Conservancy
4424 NW 13th St, Suite B-11
Gainesville, FL 32609