On Amelia Island, from May thru August each year, female sea turtles come ashore to make nests. Volunteers from Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch
monitor the beaches and mark each nest with stakes and yellow tape. Loggerhead is the most common species of sea turtle here but Green and Leatherbacks are occasionally found.
Sea Turtles and Lights
Each summer, Florida beaches host the largest gathering of nesting sea turtles in the United States. Female sea turtles emerge from the surf to deposit eggs in sand nests and later, tiny hatchlings struggle from their nests and scramble to the ocean. Nearly all of this activity takes place under the cover of darkness and relies upon a natural light environment too often disrupted by the addition of artificial lighting. Beach residents and visitors must be informed about the adverse effects of beach lighting on sea turtles and offered solutions that will aid in conserving sea turtles that nest on developed beaches.
Fifty to sixty days after eggs were placed in the nest, hatchling sea turtles tear themselves free of their papery eggshells beneath the sand and with periodic bouts of thrashing, make their way to the surface. At nightfall, as many as 100 hatchlings burst together from the sand and immediately scramble toward the ocean, which should be the brightest horizon. Moving quickly from nest to sea is critical for the survival of hatchling sea turtles.
The Problem with lights
On beaches where artificial lighting is visible, the hatchlings' important journey to the sea is disrupted. Hatchling sea turtles emerging from nests at night are strongly attracted to light sources along the beach. Consequently, hatchlings move toward street lights, porch lights, or interior lighting visible through windows, and away from the relative sanctuary of the ocean. Hatchlings so misled fail to find their way to the sea, having succumbed to attacks by predators, exhaustion, drying in the morning sun, or strikes by automobiles on nearby parking lots and roads.
Quite literally, a single light left on near a sea turtle nesting beach can misdirect and kill hundreds of hatchlings
. Cases where hatchlings have been led to their death into the flames of unattended fires are testimony to the strong attraction hatchlings have for light.