March 1st marked the official start of sea turtle nesting season in Broward County, but turtles don’t always play by the rules.
This year, Florida documented its earliest nest ever on February 6th in Martin County. Since then, about a dozen nests have been reported in southeast counties including nests being laid in Broward this week.
Last year, the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (BCSTCP) documented a record 3,647 nests on the County’s 24-mile coastline (including the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park). The BCSTCP began monitoring for sea turtle nests in 1981 and long-term trends suggest increases in local nesting populations.
Three species of sea turtles typically nest on Broward’s beaches each season: leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerheads (Caretta caretta), and green turtles (Chelonia mydas).
Hatchlings use natural light from the moon and stars to locate the water after hatching, but artificial lighting near the beach can disrupt this sea-finding process and cause turtles to become “disoriented” or confused.
To reduce the amount of artificial lighting reaching the beach in Broward County, local coastal municipalities enforce lighting ordinances during sea turtle nesting season (March 1-October 31). Lighting near the beach should be “sea turtle-friendly” and follow all three criteria below, established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):
- Keep it low.
-Fixtures should be mounted as low as possible to achieve their purpose.
-Fixtures/bulbs should produce the lowest lumens (light output) necessary for the task.
- Keep it shielded.
-The bulb, lamp, or glowing lens should be shielded from the beach.
-This includes interior lights; curtains, shades, and blinds should be closed after sunset.
- Keep it long (wavelength).
-Fixtures/bulbs must produce long wavelength light (560 nm or longer) without filters, gels, or lenses.
-Amber and red LEDs are good examples of these types of light.
FWC provides a list of certified fixtures that meet all three criteria listed above. Alternatively, you can contact the BCSTCP for assistance with light retrofitting or additional information. For turtle nesting updates throughout the season and other environmental news, follow @BrowardCountyEnvironment on Facebook and @BrowardEnv on Twitter.