Marine Turtle Lighting
Four species of marine turtles nest on Florida's shorelines: leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green sea (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Of the marine turtles which nest in Florida, three are federally listed as endangered and the loggerhead is listed as a threatened species. These turtles typically nest at night on sandy beaches. Once eggs have been laid and the nest has been sufficiently camouflaged, the female orients herself and returns to the ocean. After an average 60-day incubation period, the hatchlings emerge from the nest, between dusk and dawn, orient themselves toward the seaward horizon, and make their way into the ocean. Scientific research indicates that turtle hatchlings orient themselves toward the ocean by their attraction to light reflected upon the water's surface.
Artificial lighting landward of the beach can deter turtles from emerging from the ocean and nesting. In addition, if a hatchling is unable to see the ocean horizon or if artificial light is visible, then the hatchling may become disoriented and crawl toward a landward light source. Until the hatchling has made its way to ocean, it is very susceptible to dehydration and predation. Authorization for exterior lights in the coastal zone is given by the State of Florida through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Coastal Construction and/or Environmental Resource Permitting process for beachfront properties.
To balance project lighting needs for safety and aesthetic purposes with marine turtle protection, Coastal Systems International, Inc. coordinates with project lighting consultants, landscape architects, and the project architect to determine the best exterior light design alternative for the project site that will meet not only DEP criteria, but also HRS and municipal requirements. Coastal Systems in turn coordinates with the DEP Office of Beaches and Coastal Systems and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff to expedite their review and approval of exterior lighting plans for beachfront properties. To achieve optimum results, Coastal Systems utilizes the latest scientific research on turtle habits and recent technology from leaders in the lighting industry.