(FloridaToday.com) - The simple flip of a switch can spare countless endangered sea turtles.
Nighttime lighting tends to lure hatchling turtles to crawl inland instead of seaward after emerging from their beach nests. As a result, they often die from dehydration, get run over or become prey for raccoons, crabs or ants.
So from Thursday through Oct. 31, all indoor and outdoor lights visible from the beach must be shielded, repositioned, replaced or turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Bright beach lights, flashlights, flash cameras, video recorders and other types of artificial lighting aren't allowed either.
Disturbing a sea turtle, its nests or hatchlings also is illegal.
Those who violate Brevard's marine turtle lighting ordinance face fines of up to $500 and six months in county jail.
Most beachside cities have similar ordinances.
Officials will work with residents on lighting problems. Along with the nonprofit Sea Turtle Conservancy, Brevard County periodically has grant money available to help homeowners fix beach-lighting issues.
"The lighting has greatly improved over the years," said Paula Berntson, the county's beach programs assistant. "With grant opportunities, many buildings have been retrofitted with turtle-friendly fixtures and bulbs."
Sea turtle nesting season actually has been underway since March 1 from Brevard through Broward counties, with leatherback turtles the first to nest along the beaches. Coinciding with that date, some limits on coastal construction already have taken effect.
But Thursday marks the start of the beach-lighting restrictions. Florida law restricts activities such as beach renourishment and repairs to seawalls and other structures during sea turtle nesting season, which runs through Oct. 31.
Brevard County just wrapped up massive beach sand pumping projects, which will give a wider beach for turtles to dig their nests. Workers planned to finish beach tilling by Monday to make sure sure the new sand is soft enough for turtle nesting, Mike McGarry, who coordinates the county's beach projects, said via email.
State wildlife officialsalso urge oceanfront property owners and coastal cities to keep beaches clear of chairs, equipment and other objects that discourage nighttime nesting turtles from reaching the dunes.
Eggs in most nests will hatch by the official close of nesting season on Oct. 31, although green turtles may continue laying eggs into October.
Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@JWayEnviro
Turtle nesting tips
How to ensure successful nesting of threatened and endangered sea turtles:
• Complete beach-repair work before nesting turtles arrive.
• Remove all equipment, beach furniture and other potential obstructions from the beach at night, when nesting females and hatchlings need to move unimpeded across the sand.
• Manage artificial light at night by turning off lights when not in use, closing curtains and shades, and shielding lights needed for human safety so no light is visible from the beach. For information about sea turtles or alternative lighting solutions, call 633-2016 ext. 52431.
• If you find a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle, call FWC's 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922. Be prepared to answer the following questions: exact location of the animal? Is the turtle alive or dead? Approximate size of the turtle? Is the turtle marked with spray paint? (This may indicate that the turtle has been previously documented). Location of the closest access point to the turtle? If the turtle is alive, please be prepared to stay with it until help arrives.
Read your city's lighting ordinance: