Light Management

hatchling turtle on beach

Why Lighting is Important

Hatchlings emerging from a nest will instinctively be drawn to a light source along the beach. On a natural beach with no artificial light the light of the seaward horizon guides the hatchlings to the waters edge. Artificial light can disorient the hatchling. As a result they will travel towards the light source rather than the ocean.

Sea Turtle populations have suffered significant losses in recent years. It is estimated that only 1 out of 1,000 survive to sexual maturity at 30 years of age. Their recovery largely depends upon our efforts to manage the effects of expanding human populations and other anthropogenic effects. Light pollution may be one of the most easily managed.

Maggie Boselowitz Environmental Specialist (Beach Lighting)

Habitat Conservation

Solving the Problem

In September 2013, St. Johns County enacted Section 4.01.09 of Article IV of The Land Development Code, establishing beach lighting requirements for the protection of Florida’s federally listed threatened and endangered nesting marine turtles in St. Johns County.  In August 2006, St. Johns County received approval from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for a 20-year Incidental Take Permit (ITP) and Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). One of the conditions of this permit was to have the lighting ordinance fully enforced in the unincorporated 41.1 miles (66.1 km) of Coastal St. Johns County.

How You Can Reduce Lighting Impacts

  1. Replace all exterior light bulbs with amber, orange, or red LED bulbs (25 watts or less). Studies have shown that the long wavelength spectrum of light (oranges, reds) is less attractive to sea turtles.
  2. Place a shield or fixture on the bulb/lens to fully cover the point source of light.
  3. Redirect fixtures down and away from the beach.  In some cases, slightly angling or rotating the lights away from the beach can bring the lighting into compliance.
  4. Eliminate or turn off all unnecessary lights, such as landscape lighting, pool lights, pergola lights, etc.
  5. Reduce the wattage of necessary lights, simply reducing the wattage of a bulb may be sufficient to bring lighting into compliance.
  6. Reposition lights behind existing barriers to shield them from view.  Reducing the height of pole-mounted fixtures may resolve many problems.
  7. Plant native dune vegetation to provide a buffer between the beach and the light source.
  8. Install timers and/or motion detectors in areas where public safety or security lighting is of concern.
  9. *A note about Certified Wildlife Lighting Products: Not all of the FWC certified lighting is compliant with the St. Johns County ordinance. Please review Article IV (Section 4.01.09) of the Land Development Code to ensure the bulb or fixture selected is compliant with our regulations.

Lighting Examples

compliant beach lighting - amber beam shining downward
Compliant Beach Lighting
non-compliant beach lighting - bright bulb shining up and outward
Non-compliant Beach Lighting


If you need assistance with beach lighting issues, please contact our office at (904) 209-0323.