VENICE — Most sea turtle hatchlings won’t live to see their first year.
But you can help them in a pretty easy way: Keep the beaches dark.
Venice Community Resource Officer George Nixon is urging residents and visitors to make sure any apartment lights are off and blinds are shut if they can be seen from area beaches.
“August and September are the peak hatching season for the young hatchlings,” he said Friday, noting they are coming out most nights because of the current heat.
“They are going to hatch a little earlier and there are so many nests on the beach that we need to be aware of their lighting shining on the beach.”
Hatchlings are attracted to light as if its the moon, it leads them to the Gulf of Mexico. But if it’s a lanai or flashlight, it can lead them into a parking lot.
Each morning, volunteers and officials with Mote Marine are checking on sea turtle nests to see how the animals are doing. Nixon’s job is to check on apartment buildings and educate residents and visitors on the need for darkness.
“They may leave a blind open or left their lanai open but turtles don’t know that. They come out and they go toward the light and they get disoriented,” he said.
They already need to avoid coyotes, raccoons and other predators in their first few hours as they scurry toward the water. Extra light causes extra danger.
There are ways to have illumination but not disruption.
“Replace problematic lights with turtle-friendly fixtures designed to direct light where you need it and away from the beach,” Mote Marine said on its website. “Use red or amber LED bulbs (which are less disruptive to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings) in shielded, downward directed turtle-friendly fixtures. You should also replace high-pressure sodium vapor lights with low-pressure sodium lights.”
There’s also the application of window tint.
You can do that “at a 15% light transmittance level, or close opaque curtains of blinds after dark to reduce the amount of visible light on the beach ... only light for safety, and avoid decorative or uplights during the nesting and hatchling season,” the website states.
And while Nixon is much more interested in education, there can be fines for people who refuse to assist. Local and federal fines, starting at $250 but can be $500 for repeat offenders.
But he hopes a reminder helps hatchlings.
“The odds are against them,” he said. “There are still lots that do make it.”