With expressive eyes and graceful movements, sea turtles easily find their way into popular culture through children’s stories and tourist attractions. But for the many sea turtles native to the beaches of Miami-Dade County, finding their way to the open ocean as newborn hatchlings is an increasingly perilous journey.
For the past 30 years, the Miami-Dade Sea Turtle Conservation Program (MDCSTCP) has been collecting data across 19 miles of sandy beach to better protect local sea turtles and their nesting habitats. Their research helps explain how human activity around heavily-urbanized beaches is impacting these endangered animals:
“Once sea turtle hatchlings emerge from the sand, it is instinctive for them to navigate towards the brightest horizon to begin their path towards the ocean. In a natural environment, the brightest light source would be the reflection of the night sky over the ocean.”
Artificial light from homes, buildings and streets often upsets this natural pattern, outshining the reflection and dangerously disorienting the hatchlings.
“MDCSTCP staff recorded that approximately 39% of the sea turtle nests laid on Haulover Beach disoriented during the 2017 nesting season, resulting in approximately 850 hatchlings that were unable to make it into the ocean.”
With less than 0.1% of sea turtles surviving to sexual maturity, reducing light pollution for nesting mothers and future hatchlings is an ecological priority and a major concern for the local Sea Turtle Conservation Program.
Thanks to new support from Miami-Dade Parks through a special advertising program with CBS EcoMedia, significant progress has been made. In March 2018, MDCSTCP installed sea-turtle friendly lights across Haulover Beach Park. These LED lights produce yellow and amber shades that emit lower frequencies to which hatchlings are not as sensitive, potentially saving hundreds of sea turtles during the upcoming nesting season.
Quite literally, this collaboration is a step in the right direction for local conservation efforts and promises to build on the community’s commitment to improving opportunities for residents, both human and reptilian.
Above content provided by CBS EcoMedia, Parks-Foundation of Miami-Dade and Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation