Green Guide

South Carolina beach town to consider sea turtle protection

Posted September 10, 2020 4:43 a.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2020 4:44 a.m. EDT

— Officials in a South Carolina island town are proposing an ordinance that would ban beachside homes from disturbing sea turtles by casting light from their properties onto the beach.

The Hilton Head Island Town Council is set to consider the proposal next month, The Post and Courier reported Wednesday. It aims to protect sea turtle hatchlings by allowing them to find a more direct path to the ocean without interference from light pollution.

The ordinance would prohibit beachfront properties from shining light onto the sand through windows, doors and outdoor fixtures, requiring them to install tinted windows, solar screens or light-blocking measures instead, news outlets said.

Property owners could also turn off such lights from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the May to October nesting season, or in some cases, use different colored bulbs that are less likely to attract the reptiles.

Amber Kuehn, a marine biologist who leads a nonprofit sea turtle patrol group, said sea turtles move directly toward light and can become easily disoriented.

“They look for the brightest light, which is their only beacon to find the water,” The Post and Courier quoted Kuehn as saying. “And it’s not necessarily the brightest light. It’s the open horizon that is lit by the glow of the moon.”

The town's public planning committee approved the ordinance Aug. 27. If approved by the town council, it would become effective May 1, 2021. Repeat violations could result in a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

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