Sea turtle nesting season is just around the corner and Escambia County has launched the Sea Turtle Protection Program initiative to reduce the amount of artificial light on Pensacola Beach.
In support of the Barrier Island Lighting Ordinance, the county is offering a cost-share retrofit program for Pensacola Beach residents. If eligible, property owners may be reimbursed up to $56 per fixture and $25 per bulb to retrofit existing lights to turtle friendly alternatives.
Escambia County’s Barrier Island Lighting Ordinance was passed in 2014, requiring turtle friendly lighting for new construction, and allowed existing lights until Jan. 1, 2018 to come into compliance. Any light visible from the beach must meet the turtle friendly standards found in the ordinance. Properties that don’t comply could be subject to a civil citation.
Escambia County has additional funding from a Natural Resource Damage Assessment project titled “Restoring the Night Sky," designed to restore sea turtle habitats impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and to assist homeowners to comply with the ordinance. The project has previously funded the 2015 retrofit of the Casino Beach parking lot and the Gulfside Pavilion and the 2016 retrofit of two Perdido Key condominiums to enhance nesting habitat within Perdido Key State Park.
Artificial lighting is one of the largest threats to nesting and hatchling sea turtles. Bright lights can deter nesting behaviors, while hatchlings often confuse artificial lights with the natural light sources they use to find the Gulf of Mexico. This causes disorientation, leading hatchlings away from the gulf and into danger.
Pensacola Beach residents and property owners are encouraged to contact Natural Resources Management at 850-595-1144 or Samantha Bolduc at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if they are eligible for the cost-share program. A list of pre-approved fixtures and bulbs can be found at here. More information about the project and sea turtles in Escambia County can be found at myescambia.com/seaturtles.