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Making the Switch to Red Lights

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Making the Switch to Red Lights
28Apr 2022

To our guests and neighbors: white lights aren’t right!

Every nesting season, thousands of turtle hatchlings here in the Cayman Islands break the surface of their sandy nests and take their first full gulp of salty sea air. Soon they’ll make their way to the waves, finding their way using the moonlight that reflects on the ocean waves. Yet many of these adorable hatchlings don’t make it to the water because they become disoriented by artificial lights on land.

When they head in the wrong direction, they’re at risk from land-based predators, vehicles, or simply from exhaustion, starvation, or dehydration. And even hatchlings that make it to the shore, but are still disoriented from the lights, can become dazed and begin swimming in circles, becoming an easy meal for underwater predators. 

The easiest fix is turtle-friendly lighting. While complete darkness is best, we can compromise on land by changing fluorescent or white bulbs to red ones. Another way to help is to turn off unnecessary lighting. And if you live on the coast, turn off your beachfront lights altogether during turtle nesting season.

Why make the switch to red lighting? Sea turtles mainly see blue, yellow, and green colors, much like the colors underwater. Because of this, they don’t see red lights as well as white lights. A light source as small as a flashlight can turn a hatchling off-course and into harm’s way – and no one wants that!

Learn more about the Cayman Islands Department of Environment’s guidelines for turtle-friendly lighting here.

If you happen to see a disoriented hatchling away from the sea, please call the DOE's Turtle Hotline: 938-NEST (938-6378).