Dark Sky, Energy + Environment

Introduction To Turtle Safe Lighting

Introduction to Turtle Safe Lighting


Artificial light at night can disorient sea turtles, and send them into car traffic, instead of the ocean. Sea turtle hatchlings are born on sandy beaches at night and must find the ocean by the light of the horizon. The problem isn’t new. Many coastal areas have enacted lighting regulations to protect sea turtles, and the number of proposed regulations is increasing.

Ninety percent of sea turtle nesting in North America occurs in Florida, and Florida also hosts the largest population of nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the world. So, the fate of the world’s sea turtle population hangs heavily on Florida. Nearly all of Florida’s sandy coastline areas have requirements for beachfront lighting to protect sea turtles, and the requirement for coastal properties to have wildlife-friendly lighting is continually growing. According to Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) analysis of Florida’s sea turtle lighting protections, out of 113 local governments Florida analyzed, 102 have a lighting ordinance for sea turtle protection.

According to the STC, based in Gainesville, FL, wildlife-friendly fixtures follow three simple rules:

  • Low. Use low mounting heights, wattages, and lumens.
  • Shielded. Shield the light source so it is not directly visible, and also direct the light toward the ground where it is needed (aka full cut-off).
  • Long. Sea turtles (along with other animals) are less disturbed by long wavelengths of light (560 nanometers or longer). Long wavelength lights appear amber, orange, and red in color.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) certifies lighting that can be Red, Orange, and Amber without wavelengths below 560 nm. More information on the FWC Turtle Safe Lighting Program can be found here.

DarkSky International also certifies Sea Turtle Sensitive lighting. See the image below. DarkSky-certified Luminaires specifically tuned for sea turtle habitats must provide:

  • Photometric files are needed to validate performance characteristics.
  • Spectral Power Distribution measurements are needed to validate color spectrum.
  • No uplight, BUG U-0.
  • Must have a pre- or post-installation shielding option.
  • Sea turtle specific spectrum 565nm Mono-Chromatic Amber light sources only.
  • Luminaires must have dimming capability to 10% of full rating.
  • Luminaires must have Safety Certification by an independent laboratory.

More information on DarkSky Sea Turtle Sensitive lighting can be found here.

Sea turtle-friendly lighting principles also benefit many other wildlife species, including bats, frogs, fireflies, and migratory birds

Top image: Pexels.com

Sea turtle sensitive certification logo from DarkSky International

Image: Sea turtle sensitive certification logo from DarkSky International


author avatar
David Shiller
David Shiller is the Publisher of LightNOW, and President of Lighting Solution Development, a North American consulting firm providing business development services to advanced lighting manufacturers. The ALA awarded David the Pillar of the Industry Award. David has co-chaired ALA’s Engineering Committee since 2010. David established MaxLite’s OEM component sales into a multi-million dollar division. He invented GU24 lamps while leading ENERGY STAR lighting programs for the US EPA. David has been published in leading lighting publications, including LD+A, enLIGHTenment Magazine, LEDs Magazine, and more.


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