Some Enlightenment About The Turtles

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(By Eve Haverfield) We all have a vested interest in the success of sea turtle populations because sea turtles are the caretakers of the health of our oceans, oceans that we humans depend on.

The purpose of lighting ordinances is to PREVENT disorientations in the first place.  The suggestion to “guide disoriented turtles towards the gulf” indicates that there is a lighting problem severe enough to affect the hatchlings’ innate ability to be able to identify the right crawling direction to the Gulf. Incubation of marine turtle nests can last anywhere from 50 days to 70 or more days…when they hatch is unpredictable.  By the time disorientations, or misorientations, are discovered, it is too late!  The harm has been done.

The average number of eggs in a sea turtle nest is 120 eggs or more.  So, one disorientation can mean the death of over one hundred hatchlings.  Six disorientations then are a significant loss.  Fort Myers Beach disorientations have been relatively low because Turtle Time volunteers were out late at night, reminding people to close drapes and to turn off flashlights!  Even if hatchlings ultimately reach the Gulf, having been misoriented as they crawled around the beach, sometimes for hours on end, to find their way to the water, seriously depletes the energy that is required for them to swim offshore and survive at sea.

Add to those data that only one to four out of a thousand hatchlings survive to adulthood, then hatchling losses result in a no-deposit-no-return dynamic.  That is how species crawl towards the ‘endangered’ designation – because of human impact.  Lighting problems are one of the most easily addressed and resolved issues that are a benefit to both humans and sea turtles.  No one is asked to hunker in the dark.  Those folks on the beach who already have installed the 15% transmission glass, are extremely pleased.  They are not living in darkness in their homes!

Turtle Time’s conservation work is based on very specific laws such as the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Turtle Protection Act, Florida Statute Chapter 379.2431 (1).  Authorized marine turtle permit holders must strictly follow the guidelines of the FWC Marine Turtle Conservation Handbook.  Under current regulations, hatchlings released may not be commercialized (conducted for profit) nor exploited for commercial endeavors.

To become more informed about sea turtles and lights, please go to www.turtletime.org . Click on Florida Marine Research Institute Technical Reports: Understanding, Assessing and Resolving Light-Pollution Problems on Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches.  

As one lighting company that specializes in Certified turtle-friendly lights adeptly put it: Effective Sea Turtle Lighting leaves them in the dark, not you.  

Eve can be reached by e-mail at  caretta1@comcast.net

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