The Problem: Nesting turtles once had no trouble finding a quiet, dark beach on which to nest, but now they must compete with tourists, businesses and coastal residents for use of sandy beaches. U.S. beaches, popular with humans and turtles alike, are now lined with seaside condominiums, houses and hotels. Lights from these developments discourage females from nesting. If a female fails to nest after multiple false crawls, she will resort to less-than-optimal nesting spots or deposit her eggs in the ocean. In either case, the survival outlook for hatchlings is slim.
Lighting near the shore also can cause hatchlings to become disoriented and wander inland, where they often die of dehydration or predation. Hatchlings, scientists believe, have an innate instinct that leads them in the brightest horizon, which is usually over the ocean. Excess lighting from the nearshore buildings and streets draw hatchlings toward land, where they may be eaten, run over, or drown swimming pools. While it might seem like a difficult problem to tackle, an estimated one third of all lighting in the U.S. is wasted. With an annual expenditure of about 30 million barrels of oil and 2 million tons of coal on unnecessary lights, the cost of the wasted lighting equals about $2 billion each year!Species Affected: All species of sea turtles are affected. The Solution: Reducing the amount of artificial light that is visible from nesting beaches is the first step to reducing light pollution that affects sea turtles. Coastal communities around the world have passed ordinances that require residents turn off beachfront lights during turtle nesting season. Unfortunately, these ordinances are not always enforced and don’t address the larger problem of sky glow that occurs near cities.