Sea Turtles battle to survive against light pollution in South Florida.
Florida is one of the most important nesting habitats for several Sea Turtle species in the world. For the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, a threatened species, this is their biggest nesting habitat. For the endangered Green and critically endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles, this has become increasingly more important as their ancestral habitat is being developed and lost. Despite an estimated 12 million hatchlings being born every year, at least half die before ever reaching the ocean. The biggest threat to hatchling survival is light pollution.
Despite state and federal laws specifically designed to prevent such an unsustainable death rate, nothing has ever been done to mitigate the problem. Because Sea Turtles are a global migratory species as the state crashes their population it also causes a severe decline in the global population. Nesting Sea Turtles return to their natal beach to nest so as they die off, the remaining population will not simply move to another state or country to nest. The state agency charged with enforcing laws and saving imperiled species, the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), has refused to enforce the laws or mitigate the deadly problem.
For over a decade, a small group of trained volunteers has saved nearly 300,000 hatchlings from death by light pollution. Due to political vindictiveness over a lawsuit filed against a major light pollution offender, the state has revoked their permits and willingly will let another 30,000 hatchlings die every year. The state also allows for testing on Leatherback hatchlings, causing the death of many, because of a loophole in the ESA (Emotional Support Animal) law that fails to cover cold blooded reptiles. Add to that, the hot sand that only produces females further suggests that the future of Sea Turtles is bleak.
Because of out-of-control non regulated coastal development, there is no fix to light pollution. No law can counter the millions of lights seen every night for miles. The only viable solution is to implement a policy of having indoor temperature controlled hatcheries. This will help insure both the survival of hatchlings and allow more males to be born as well. Without this solution, Florida is on track to crash several Sea Turtles species which will most likely cause the ripple effect of extinction.
More to come from conservationist, Staci-Lee Sherwood ...
(Photos courtesy of Staci-Lee Sherwood)