New tool to help Florida communities improve lighting for sea turtles

Searchable database helps locals understand sea turtle lighting ordinances across the coast

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Thousands of federally-protected adult and hatchling sea turtles are disoriented away from the ocean and toward problematic coastal lighting along Florida’s beaches each year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. These disorientations can prove fatal for some sea turtles. To better assist local governments and community members with protecting their local sea turtle populations, Sea Turtle Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation have launched a new website, found here. This tool will allow viewers to determine how well their local lighting ordinance compares with the State’s 2020 Model Lighting Ordinance for Sea Turtle Protection (Rule 62B-55.004, F.A.C). Experts say that for many local jurisdictions, an update to lighting ordinance language and enforcement strategies is long overdue.

“Along the coast, strong lighting ordinance language and implementation strategies help create darker night skies which benefit both people and Florida’s sea turtles. However, with advances in technology and better understanding of sea turtle disorientations, many communities have outdated language,” said Rachel Tighe, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Lighting Project Manager. “Our goal with the website is to make it simple for leaders and constituents of coastal governments to learn about the status of their existing ordinance language and enforcement and become inspired to improve.” 

The website allows users to learn more about their local lighting ordinance and offers community members knowledge about how to bring their properties into compliance to better improve sea turtle nesting habitats and increase protections for sea turtles.

“Florida’s coast alone represents more than 90% of all the sea turtle nests in the United States, but sadly artificial lights are one of the biggest threats to sea turtles,” said Melissa Hill, National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Program Manager. “Using clear language in local lighting ordinances helps protect our globally important beaches for sea turtle nesting.”

The website will also include additional resources and guidance for residents and local governments working to update an existing or create a new local lighting ordinance.

“As the world’s oldest sea turtle conservation organization, we are excited to bring this tool to the public to help continue our work of helping sea turtles survive,” said Stacey Gallagher, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Development and Policy Coordinator.

If you are interested in updating your local sea turtle lighting ordinance, please contact Melissa Hill at for areas in Pinellas County and the northwest coast of Florida. For all other coastal areas in Florida, please contact Stacey Gallagher at for assistance.

It is the mission of Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific through research, education, training, advocacy, and protection of the natural habitats upon which they depend. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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