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Florence Living

home : the beach : the beach September 15, 2014

Lights out for loggerheads

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources asks coastal visitors and residents to keep Lights Out for Loggerheads.
Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are present on South Carolina's barrier islands from May through October. From May through August, loggerheads come ashore to deposit approximately 120 eggs in a nest cavity in the dry sand dune system. Sixty days later, loggerhead hatchlings emerge from the nest at night and head to the ocean.
Nests hatch from July through the end of October. Loggerhead hatchlings are vulnerable to disorientation by artificial lights. When loggerhead hatchlings emerge from the shell, they are attracted to the blue and green wavelengths of celestial light that are naturally reflected off the ocean. They use this natural light to navigate from the nest toward the ocean.
"If artificial light on the beach is brighter than the natural ocean horizon, the hatchlings will head toward this artificial source" says Michelle Pate, Sea turtle Coordinator for DNR. Light from streetlights, exterior lights on commercial establishments and beachfront homes can all disorient hatchlings. People on or near the beach carrying flashlights or lanterns and bonfires can also disorient loggerhead hatchlings. Disorientation of loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings results in increased mortality. Disorientation makes hatchlings more vulnerable to nocturnal predators and desiccation.
"While crawling the wrong way on the beach, hatchlings exhaust valuable, limited energy that is needed to swim offshore", Pate advises. Hatchlings need energy once they reach the ocean to swim to dense floating rafts of seaweed found as far as 60 miles offshore. They use the seaweed as camouflage to protect them from predators.
The seaweed is also home to small crustaceans that loggerhead hatchlings eat to replenish their energy.
Loggerheads are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected by federal and state laws. If a sea turtle hatchling is disoriented by artificial light, the maximum federal fine for harming a threatened species is $25,000. County and local lighting ordinances exist to protect sea turtles.
To see a list of lighting ordinances in South Carolina, please visit: Violating local or county lighting ordinances carry fines up to $500.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Galloway Mosley
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