As you’re driving around St. Croix after dark, you may wonder why you are seeing red lights near the beaches. These red lights are installed for sea turtle safety.
Sea turtles are very sensitive to white light at night. In fact, it can cause them to be disoriented and impair their vision. For nesting sea turtles, white light can deter her from nesting or cause her to become disoriented when moving back to the sea. A hatchling sea turtle is innately drawn to the brightest horizon, like the moon reflecting on the sea, and can become disoriented by man-made lighting.
Meanwhile, red lights emit a very narrow portion of the visible light spectrum. This is less intrusive to sea turtles, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s article about threats from artificial lighting. “Reducing the amount of artificial light that is visible from nesting beaches is the first step to reducing light pollution that affects sea turtles.”
Many coastal areas on St. Croix have replaced near-shore street and building lighting with red lights for sea turtle safety. Pictured here are red street lights at Cane Bay on St. Croix’s north shore. If you live, are staying near, or are visiting the beach, consider these tips, especially during sea turtle nesting season:
- turn off lights visible from the beach at night
- use red lights for sea turtle safety
- tint windows or close curtains that are facing the beach at night
- don’t use a white light flashlight on the beach
- don’t park with your headlights on facing the sea
What kind of sea turtles nest on St. Croix?
Leatherback, green and hawksbill sea turtles nest on beaches all around St. Croix. You can learn more from The St. Croix Sea Turtle Project at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge.
According to the National Park Service, turtles are a protected species. Anyone caught touching, riding or disturbing a turtle will be subject to penalties.
What to do if you find a sea turtle that has become disoriented
If you find a nesting or hatchling sea turtle that has become disoriented or is in distress, contact STAR – Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue (340-690-0474).