Frequently Asked Questions
Why doesn't the County put a barge offshore with bright lights on it to attract all the turtles to?
Federal laws prohibit tampering with natural behaviors of sea turtles. This would unnaturally attract the hatchlings to the same area of the ocean and not into the Gulf Stream which they can find naturally without any artificial light. Ultimately, this could also be deadly for them as larger predators are also attracted to bright lights in the water. (This is why many people fish under dock lights hanging over the water at night).
Why is my light a violation? A sea turtle crawling on the sand probably can't even see it.
The ordinance reads that any light visible by a person standing on the beach is in violation of the ordinance. We have to use a standard rule of observation and that is to see the light while standing on the beach. It is not possible to determine if a sea turtle will be affected by the light by lying on the sand trying to look for it. Sea turtles also have a different line of vision than humans and we cannot emulate what they are seeing. Beach conditions also fluctuate frequently and sometimes if you stand on different parts of the beach, different lights become visible. If a light is bright enough or close enough for a person to see it, then it will be in violation. There have been incubating nests which have gained and lost over a foot of sand over the top of the eggs in less than two months time. This small change in elevation can easily change what lights are visible from that location. By using the standard of standing on the beach, we can consistently identify problem lights.
County staff are not concerned for human safety and consider sea turtles more important than people.
County staff hears this concern often. We are aware of other codes and requirements for lighting certain parts of properties such as exits, stairwells, and pool decks. We also understand the importance of human safety and recognize that it is possible to safely light a property with out being in violation of the ordinance. It is our job to enforce the ordinance and provide suggestions to customers to consider implementing on their properties. The options vary from simple and inexpensive to complex and expensive. We never encourage that lights be turned off unless they are only decorative and serve no safety purpose. The lighting ordinance is designed to make the beach a safer environment for sea turtles to successfully reproduce. Just because we are doing our job does not mean we do not care about people or put turtles first. You may not like the options but in most cases, they do exist and there is an option for safely lighting your property.
Other countries captive farm raise sea turtles and/or make hatcheries to move all the eggs to one safe place. Why doesn’t Volusia County do that?
Federal laws of the United States prohibit tampering with natural behaviors of sea turtles. Florida has strict regulations which must be adhered to as well. Volusia County has contracted people who are authorized by the state to conducted nest monitoring activities. The nest monitoring regulations are very structured and they prohibit moving sea turtle eggs for any other purpose than to remove them from the immediate threat of tidal inundation or storm water runoff. Eggs can only be moved the first 12 hours after they are laid to avoid dis-attaching the membrane from the shell (a delicate connection that once is established, can easily be destroyed and will stop further development of the egg). Volusia County is not directly authorized to conduct these activities and does not anticipate challenging these state and federal regulations. A light management plan was implemented here as a component of a federally issued Incidental Take Permit which authorizes beach driving. With this authorization, Volusia County is required to implement many protective measures for sea turtles to naturally and safely use our beaches as they encounter them for nesting. We cannot simply move the sea turtles out of the way. We have to learn and teach others how to be responsible stewards of beach front property and live in unison with our beach environment.
Why do we protect our sea turtles so strictly here? They just go across the ocean and get eaten by people in other countries.
Many other countries are constantly reviewing their regulations and internationally, protections for sea turtles are greater than ever. For example, the Bahamas no longer allows sea turtles to be caught and sold for consumption. Other third world countries which still have human populations who need to sustain on locally obtained food are regulating their consumption by limiting their egg and adult turtle collections to only a fraction of historical amounts. It is a fact that all sea turtles are listed as threatened and endangered and are disappearing at alarming rates in nearly all recorded populations. With this knowledge there is a greater awareness and understanding on how to and why to protect sea turtles whenever possible. Many countries are shifting to eco-tourism community based programs and are learning to embrace and profit from live sea turtles rather than exploit them for food which they will eventually run out of if it is not conserved. It is even becoming taboo in some countries historically convinced that sea turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac. There are well educated sea turtle conservationists through out the world who are working at local levels to protect what’s left and plan for future best management practices which sometimes includes a shift in old customs.
Why aren’t sea turtles attracted to the moon on full moon nights? Do sea turtles nest and hatch more under the full moon?
The moon is the only natural light that illuminates the ocean. Even when a full moon is present far to the west, the distance it sits from the earth allows it to illuminate everything that is reflective. The bright reflection of the moon light on the water is greater than the moon itself. Moonlight is also absorbed by non-reflective things such as plants making them appear darker in contrast to the reflection on the ocean. A nearby artificial light is in much closer proximity, is more directed and does not equally illuminate an area. It can appear brighter than the moon light and reflective water surface. The moon phase has not been scientifically proven to influence sea turtle nesting and hatching behavior. These behaviors can be observed on any given night during the sea turtle nesting season (May- October). Their development and behaviors are actually more influenced by water and sand temperatures.
Is any red or yellow light in compliance with the ordinance? I’ve heard red and amber lights are invisible to sea turtles.
No, even though some lights which are red or amber in color have a longer wavelength of light and are less visible to sea turtles, this does not always make them compliant with the local county ordinance. The state permit review process does allow some red and amber long wavelength bulbs to be permitted in certain circumstances but here in Volusia, the local ordinance only allows long wavelength lights in the Main Street redevelopment area (core part of Daytona Beach). No other exceptions for colored lights is made in the rest of Volusia County. Even with state authorization to use red lights, you may be out of compliance with the local ordinance. Sea turtles do not see the same spectrums as humans. Lights which have shorter wavelengths at the blue end of the spectrum are actually more disruptive and that is why red and amber, as seen at the opposite end of the spectrum, are allowed in some places.
I bought a sea turtle friendly certified fixture- why is it in violation of the ordinance? It is certified!
As with any purchase, there may be something that the seller did not disclose in their advertisement. There is no “one size fits all” light which will bring every property into compliance. A combination of fixture type, location on the property, type of bulb used, elevation from the beach, and other factors can all influence if a sea turtle friendly light will be compliant on your property. If it fails one of the 3 criteria of the ordinance, then it will be in violation. The three criteria are if a source of light is visible, the light illuminates the beach or if a reflective surface of the fixture is visible then it fails the inspection.
Why are you picking on my lights? I see another light right over there, you need to fix that too!
Lighting inspections are conducted for many reasons. Sometimes a property owner or manager will request us to come perform an inspection, sometimes we receive complaints from other residents or local monitoring groups or we may be in the vicinity inspecting potential problems from a nest due to hatch and pro-actively try to address violations in a certain region. Disorientation events (when hatchlings are confused by lights) also spur an inspection. Finally, we may open cases randomly as violations are observed. With over 35 miles of beach to survey, we may pursue violations in order of priority or based on the magnitude of the problem. Every single light in violation is not always pursued but we do our best at contacting each property when one is seen or a complaint is received. If we are meeting with you on site to discuss your property or you have received a notice, then your property is the focus of our case. Pointing to other lights does not mean your violation is not a violation. We do our best to be fair and often times are already working on the light you are pointing to.
Where can I find some good examples of compliant properties?
There are many compliant facilities throughout Volusia County. Usually the easiest type of property to find in compliance is a single family residence because they have fewer lights. Larger properties are harder to bring into compliance but they do exist. We are working on a list of example properties to share but to start, all Volusia county off beach parks are in compliance. These can be found throughout the county. There are also some examples of fixtures which may work on your property at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet.
Why don’t you use a light meter to test levels of light and determine if a violation is present?
A light meter is not needed to determine if a violation is present. Light meters don’t measure light the same way as a sea turtle sees it. Turtles actually see a different range in the spectrum of light than humans do. Sea turtles also have a different line of vision than humans. They see a broad horizontal and narrow vertical view. Their view is what we would describe as a panoramic view. Our inspectors can make a determination if illumination is present on the beach with their eyesight and by using other cues such as seeing their shadow on the beach, and observing bright lights in the vicinity. If you are unsure, one test you can do to determine if a light is causing beach illumination or not is to stand on the beach and have someone turn off potential light contributors. If you notice the area becoming darker, then your lights are illuminating the beach.