Keep Sanibel’s Sea Turtles in the Dark 2022 Nesting Season is Underway

We ask for your continued compliance with the City’s sea turtle protection lighting ordinances and hope to uphold Sanibel’s reputation as one of the darkest and most “turtle-friendly” beaches in Florida.

Turtle Night Cartoon

We ask for your continued compliance with the City’s sea turtle protection lighting ordinances and hope to uphold Sanibel’s reputation as one of the darkest and most “turtle-friendly” beaches in Florida. Join us in protecting Sanibel’s nesting beachfront wildlife. Sanibel’s sea turtle nesting period ranges from April 15-October 31st each year. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and their team of dedicated volunteers monitor Sanibel’s beaches in partnership with the City for endangered nesting sea turtles and shorebirds. Together, we ask beachgoers to keep Sanibel beaches dark and free of disturbance for our nesting sea turtles and shorebirds as you enjoy our sanctuary barrier island.

Sea turtles face many potentially lethal disturbances on our coastline, including boat strikes, entanglement in fishing line and debris, suffocation from beach litter, and disorientations from artificial lighting that directly interfere with their health, safety, and nesting activities. One of the greatest threats on our beaches is artificial lighting, causing thousands of sea turtle hatchlings to die each year on Florida beaches. Sea turtle hatchlings emerge after dark, using the light of the night sky over the sea to navigate to the water. Unfortunately, artificial lights may cause hatchlings to crawl away from the Gulf waters and towards a light source on land.

Artificial lights that are visible from the beach, pose a deadly threat to sea turtles. These lights disrupt a sea turtle’s natural sea finding behavior causing the turtle to crawl towards the light instead of the ocean, leaving the hatchling vulnerable to the elements, predators, and in danger of being crushed by vehicles. A hatchling or adult sea turtle can also become confused by artificial light and become exhausted or dehydrated on the beach. These disturbances may cause adult female turtle to become disoriented leading to a “false crawl”, where the female fails to lay her eggs and returns to the Gulf.

Luckily, we can all do our part to minimize artificial lighting and disturbance by using long wavelength light (560 nanometers or greater; orange, red, or amber LED) and shielded downward-facing fixtures.  This turtle friendly lighting is not easily detected by sea turtles, but still provides sufficient lighting for human safety.  Join us, in protecting sea turtles by turning lights off after dark, shielding seaward-facing light fixtures, and ensuring that all exterior beachfront lighting is compliant with the City’s beachfront lighting regulations all while saving energy and lowering your utility bill. After 9, it’s turtle time; please help keep our beaches dark all summer long.

Click here to find compliant lights and fixtures at FWC’s Certified Wildlife Lighting Website.< > and look for the FWC certified logo when shopping.

FWC cert
Before and After

Sanibel is protecting sea turtles with wildlife friendly lighting. The top photo exemplifies non-compliant interior and exterior lighting emanating from a Sanibel beachfront condo. The bottom photo exemplifies the same condo after implementing the City of Sanibel’s sea turtle lighting ordinance by closing blinds and installing long wavelength bulbs (560 nm or greater) in shielded fixtures. 

To help these protected endangered sea turtles survive, please remember to:

  • Turn off unnecessary lights; don’t use white flashlights or cell-phone lights on the beach at night.
  • Make outside lights turtle friendly
    • Long wavelength (560 nanometer), Certified wildlife friendly bulbs
    • Downward directed fixtures
    • Fully shielded from beach view
    • Lights located on the frontside of buildings must also be compliant if they create a cumulative glow that is visible from the beach.
    • Pool lights must be 560 nanometers or greater or turned OFF after dark.
  • Block interior lights from beach view
    • Use black-out curtains
    • Set an alarm to close the curtains by 9 p.m.
    • Move interior lights away from windows
    • Use 15% transmittance tinted “turtle” glass
  • Clear the path
    • Remove beach furniture & other obstructions
    • Fill in holes on the beach before leaving for the day
    • Give space to wildlife and SCCF posted wildlife areas.
    • Click Here to Watch the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s video: Saving Sea Turtles with Wildlife Friendly Lighting ( )

Gulf-front property owners are responsible for ensuring that their properties are compliant with the City’s sea turtle protection ordinances so that artificial lighting from their property does not illuminate the beach (Sanibel Code Section 74-181—74-183, Section 126-996—126-1002).  An easy way to test if your property complies is to stand on the beach on a moonless night and look seaward. If you can see your shadow cast towards the water, there is too much light behind you.  This light can deter female turtles from nesting and disorients hatchlings as they emerge from the nest, causing dehydration and even death.

  • For questions regarding the City’s beachfront lighting regulations email Conservation Officer, Rachel Rainbolt at [email protected] .
  • Report sick, injured, entangled, or dead sea turtles to the SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline:  978-SAVE-ONE (978-728-3663).

Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect a sea turtle. Violations of wildlife ordinances may be subject to City, State, and Federal penalties and should be reported immediately to the Sanibel Police Department at (239) 472-3111.

The City of Sanibel . 800 Dunlop Road . Sanibel . FL 33957
239.472.3700 Voice . 239.472.3065 Fax . 239.472.3111 Utilities Department 24hr Emergency Hotline

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