Four species of marine turtles nest on Florida's shorelines:
leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green sea (Chelonia
mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and loggerhead
(Caretta caretta). Of the marine turtles which nest
in Florida, three are federally listed as endangered
and the loggerhead is listed as a threatened species.
These turtles typically nest at night on sandy beaches.
Once eggs have been laid and the nest has been sufficiently
camouflaged, the female orients herself and returns
to the ocean. After an average 60-day incubation period,
the hatchlings emerge from the nest, between dusk and
dawn, orient themselves toward the seaward horizon,
and make their way into the ocean. Scientific research
indicates that turtle hatchlings orient themselves toward
the ocean by their attraction to light reflected upon
the water's surface.
Artificial lighting landward of the beach can deter
turtles from emerging from the ocean and nesting. In
addition, if a hatchling is unable to see the ocean
horizon or if artificial light is visible, then the
hatchling may become disoriented and crawl toward a
landward light source. Until the hatchling has made
its way to ocean, it is very susceptible to dehydration
and predation. Authorization for exterior lights in
the coastal zone is given by the State of Florida through
the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Coastal
Construction and/or Environmental Resource Permitting
process for beachfront properties.
To balance project lighting needs for safety and aesthetic
purposes with marine turtle protection, Coastal Systems
International, Inc. coordinates with project lighting
consultants, landscape architects, and the project architect
to determine the best exterior light design alternative
for the project site that will meet not only DEP criteria,
but also HRS and municipal requirements. Coastal Systems
in turn coordinates with the DEP Office of Beaches and
Coastal Systems and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission staff to expedite their review and approval
of exterior lighting plans for beachfront properties.
To achieve optimum results, Coastal Systems utilizes
the latest scientific research on turtle habits and
recent technology from leaders in the lighting industry.