Share the Beach, an initiative of the Alabama Coastal Foundation, urges beachgoers to prioritize safety and conservation when visiting beaches during sea turtle nesting season this summer.
Understanding proper interaction with these sea creatures and the significance of safeguarding both themselves and marine life will be keys to success for visitors this nesting season, which started in May. Between July and October is when baby sea turtles are set to hatch and make their way to the Gulf according to joinacf.org.
Sara Johnson, the director of Share the Beach, emphasized the critical threats sea turtles face during nesting season, particularly the use of lights. Whether emanating from condos, garages, parking lots or flashlights, these lights can disrupt the animals.
“In nature, sea turtles have adapted to finding their way back to the water by looking for the brightest point on the beach,” said Johnson. “All of our flashlights and all of our beachfront lights do a really good job of turning our sea turtles around and make them spend a lot more time laundering, getting stuck, getting lost. Keeping those flashlights off the beach is absolutely the biggest thing people can do.”
Johnson also stressed the importance of maintaining a clean environment by picking up trash and refraining from leaving any items on the beaches overnight. This practice ensures a safe and risk-free habitat for the animals.
To mitigate disruptions caused by lighting, the Alabama Coastal Foundation has introduced red LED lights for beach use.
“Flashlights in our typical spectrum, whites and blues, are a shorter wavelength of light,” Johnson said. “When we get into our amber and red flashlights, if you use a spectrometer, they show you a peak in a longer wavelength of light.”
Regular flashlights have been studied on hatchlings where they were proven to disorient the animals. Research has shown that regular flashlights disorient hatchlings, while red LED flashlights significantly reduce such disorientation in sea turtles.
If a turtle is spotted, it is crucial to allow it to proceed through its natural nesting process while maintaining a respectful distance, Johnson said. These animals require ample space to ensure a successful nesting season.
To report any turtle sighting or concern for sea turtles, call 866-SEATURTLE (732-8878).