Sea Turtles and Lights
- Turn off unnecessary lights. Don't use decorative lighting (such as runner lights or uplighting of vegetation) in areas that are visible from the beach and permanently remove, disable, or turn off fixtures that cannot be modified in any other way.
- For lights that can be re-positioned, face them away from the beach so that the light source is no longer visible.
- Shield the light source. Materials such as aluminum flashing can be used as a shield to direct light and keep it off the beach. When shielding lights, it is important to make sure they are shielded from all areas on the beach (including from either side and on top), and not just from the beach directly in front of the light. Black oven paint may be used as a temporary solution.
- Recessed fixtures should be utilized and/or the light source should be shielded.
- Replace fixtures that scatter light in all directions (such as globe lights or carriage lights) with directional fixtures that point down and away from the beach.
- Replace lights on poles with low profile, low-level lamps so that the light source and reflected light are not visible from the beach.
- Replace incandescent, fluorescent, and high intensity lighting with the lowest wattage amber, orange, or red LED possible to provide adequate light
- Plant or improve vegetation buffers (such as sea grapes and other native beach vegetation) between the light source and the beach to screen light from the beach.
- Use shielded motion detector lights for lighting and set them on the shortest time setting.
- To reduce spillover from indoor lighting move light fixtures away from windows, apply window tint to your windows that meets the 45% (15% recommended) inside to outside transmittance standards for tinted glass (you'll save on air conditioning costs too!), or use window treatments (blinds, curtains) to shield interior lights from the beach.
To learn more, check out FWC's Sea Turtle Lighting Guidelines
What do you do now? First, keep in mind the three golden rules when installing or modifying lights. All three must be used in combination to be effective, as they are all equally important!
Keep it low
- Fixtures must be mounted as low as possible and still be appropriate for the needed purpose.
- Bulb must produce the lowest wattage/lumens necessary for the needed purpose.
Keep it shielded
- Fixture must be completely downward-directed.
- Fixture must be able to shield the bulb, lamp, or glowing lens from the beach.
Keep it long
- Lamp/Bulb must produce only long wavelength light (560 nm or greater, which is amber, orange, or red)
*A list of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Certified Wildlife Lighting incorporates all of the three rules above.
Next, identify the lights that either have been cited or that are visible from the beach.
Are they needed for safety?
Lights that are needed for safety or security should not be turned off, as this may cause a safety hazard. Instead, they should be modified so that they meet the Golden Rules. This can be accomplished in several ways including switching the bulb to an amber, orange, or red LED, adding shielding, and/or re-positioning the light to face downward and away from the beach. Motion sensors can also be helpful. If the fixture can’t be sufficiently modified, it can be replaced with a Wildlife Lighting Certified fixture.
Are they balcony lights?
Shields can be installed over certain balcony lights to restrict the light to the balcony itself and limit illumination and visibility from the adjacent beach – remember that these should have a long-wavelength bulb installed in them. Find Balcony lights that are Wildlife Lighting Certified.
Are they utility pole lights?
Lights on utility poles can be turned off by the power company at your request if they are on your property. If you feel light is still needed for safety, additional shielding can be added to many pole fixtures (i.e. house side shields) that can make the direct light source less visible from the beach.
What about parking lots?
Pole lights in parking lots can be replaced with full cut off fixtures, angled so the light is aimed away from the beach, covered by shields, and fitted with a long-wavelength light source.
What about pool lights?
Pool lights can cause cumulative glow onto other surfaces due to the light reflecting off the water. To address this issue, pool lights can be locked on an amber or red color during the marine turtle nesting season. Additionally, you can plant or improve vegetation buffers to block the pool lights and cumulative glow from the beach.
Can you turn them off?
Decorative lights, such as uplights, string lights, or lights in trees, serve no purpose for human safety. These can be quickly and effectively turned off immediately and should not be turned on until after sea turtle nesting season ends, October 31. Remember, only turn off lights that are NOT needed for safety or security.
Don’t forget about interior lights!
White lights inside the building can be visible from the beach and are often much brighter than the exterior lights. Interior lights can quickly turn a turtle friendly building into one that causes disorientations. The good news is that there are several quick, inexpensive, and effective ways to prevent interior lights from being visible from the beach.
- Close window coverings at night.
- Turn off lights when you leave the room.
- Move lamps away from windows.
- Use fixtures with shades instead of exposed bulbs.
- Use lights on a dimmer switch to reduce the brightness.
- Use low wattage, warm white bulbs.
- Apply window tint to your windows of 45% (15% recommended) inside to outside transmittance standards for tinted glass (you'll save on energy costs too!)
If the information above is followed, your home or building is not expected to adversely impact nesting sea turtles, their hatchlings or their habitat! Thank you for doing your part to protect Florida’s sea turtles!
*Please email Wildlifelighting@MyFWC.com if you need additional information or help.