Each year hundreds, if not thousands, of turtle hatchlings die unnecessarily. The cause? Artificial lighting on Cayman’s beaches. As we enter the 2013 turtle nesting season, the DoE has published guidelines to increase awareness of the effects of artificial light on marine turtles. The guidelines also demonstrate how the deleterious effects of light can be avoided to the fullest extent possible during project development design and outline how property occupiers, owners and managers can introduce management strategies or adapt lighting on existing properties to minimise the adverse impacts upon marine turtles.
- Sea turtle nesting occurs on beaches all around Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. Most nests are laid from May to September and hatch from July to November.
- Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in sea turtle nesting. This presents a unique opportunity for low season ecotourism and many residents have been able to see nesting turtles, turtle nests, and turtle hatchlings for the first time.
- While nesting numbers are increasing, most nests are now laid on developed beaches where they are threatened by beachfront lighting. This makes continued population recovery uncertain.
- Lights on the beach deter female turtles from nesting and cause baby turtles to crawl away from the sea, where they die from dehydration or exhaustion or are killed by predators or vehicles. A single light on the beach can kill thousands of hatchlings.
- Turtle friendly lighting describes a suite of lighting options, designed to fully and continuously meet the lighting needs of beach front residents without adversely impacting turtles.
- Cost-effective and flexible options for turtle friendly lighting include planting vegetation such as hedges in front of lights, lowering and shading lights, putting security lights on motion detectors, placing turtle friendly bulbs in existing fixtures, and replacing selected lights with turtle friendly fixtures.
- As turtle friendly lighting is now a legal requirement in Florida and other US states, these methods are widely field-tested. Many of these lighting options are not apparent to residents, while others are visually and architecturally appealing.
- Turtle friendly lighting does not mean that beachfront properties must be dark – instead, lights can be directed to illuminate only areas of the property that are used and enjoyed by residents rather than shining inefficiently into the sky and toward the beach.
- Implementation of turtle friendly lighting on projects in Florida often resulted in a 70% decrease in energy costs.
- Studies show that turtle friendly lighting does not compromise security. Indeed, overly bright lighting creates a sharp contrast between light and darkness, making the non-illuminated areas nearly impossible to see. Permanent lights also provide illumination which allows criminals to see what they are doing, and it does not provide an alert when intruders enter a property. Turtle friendly options such as motion sensors or forcing trespassers to use a flashlight draw more attention and thus reduce crime.
- The manual presents the basic principles of turtle friendly lighting and provides guidance on implementation.
- DoE is committed to implementing lighting solutions that safeguard turtle nesting populations while fully meeting the needs of residents. For more information, view the Guidelines below or contact the Department of Environment at 345-949-8469 or [email protected].