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Turtle tragedy – better lighting would save baby greens


One of the dead baby hatchings from the weekend. Photo: Len De Vries.

Scores of baby turtles found dead on West Bay road over the weekend has seen fresh calls for better lighting to avoid such tragedies.

On Friday, more than 60 endangered baby green turtles were confused by lights and many were found dead on West Bay Road close to Cemetery Beach.

After hatching, the new-born head for the brightest lights they can see, which should be the moon and stars reflecting on the ocean’s surface.

But in what is often the case, the babies instead head for artificial lights and into danger.

Janice Blumenthal of the Department of Environment said the West Bay Road incident is one of many similar tragedies she has seen this year.

But she feels there is a solution – turtle friendly lighting –which is now a legal requirement in Florida and other U.S. states.

“Turtle friendly lighting does not mean that beachfront properties must be dark,” said Ms Blumenthal.

“Instead, lights can be directed to illuminate only areas of the property that are used by residents instead of shining toward the sky and beach. Turtle hatchlings are less attracted to certain wavelengths of light such as amber so selected light fixtures or light bulbs can also be replaced.

“Many turtle friendly lighting options such as planting hedges between pathway lights and the beach will not be apparent to residents, while others are very attractive – for example, amber bulbs resemble candlelight.

“As turtle friendly lighting is a legal requirement in Florida and other U.S. states, methods are field-tested. Studies show that turtle friendly lighting does not compromise security and can even enhance it. On some properties, turtle friendly lighting has also resulted in a 70 percent decrease in energy costs.”

The DoE has carried out a study into turtle-friendly lighting and are calling on residents, and those building and designer new properties in nest areas, to take their advice on board.

“Turtle friendly lighting is needed to protect our sea turtle nesting populations,” added Ms Blumenthal.

“Please consider turtle friendly lighting, particularly for new construction and when any existing beachfront lighting is due to be upgraded or replaced.

“We are encouraged to see increased interest and awareness of turtle friendly lighting but there is a long way to go in order to protect our nesting populations from this critical threat to their survival.”

The dead turtles on West Bay Road were spotted by Len De Vries who was close to Cemetery Beach with his wife.

He said: “I’d love to witness a sea turtle emerge from the sand and make its way to the water. In fact, my wife and I once spent an entire night camped next to a nesting site in the hope of glimpsing it in person.

“We always enjoy spotting them on our dives, but rarely see ones this young. To know that they hatched so close to the water, yet crawled all the way to the roadside only to be met with an untimely death is heartbreaking.

“I encourage all beachfront property owners to take heed of the Department of Environment’s advice on the installation of turtle friendly lighting.”




About Paul Kennedy

During a career that spans almost three decades, Paul has covered some of the biggest stories in the world for regional and national newspapers. A multi-award winning journalist and published author, he has worked for the past six years producing television news and documentaries in Cayman. Paul is also the host of a weekly football show. His dream story is to find a dog that can play piano.

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