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Two Suncoast beaches the test site for new turtle-friendly lights

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Street lights are designed to be highly visible for drivers. But on roads near beaches, the lights can be disorienting for turtle hatchlings.

Here on the Suncoast, Florida Power and Light and state wildlife officials recently tested a new LED prototype designed to be turtle-friendly.

Bradenton Beach recently served as one of two sites to test the new turtle friendly LED bulb. Officials chose Bradenton City Beach and Turtle Beach on the southern part of Siesta Key to test a new prototype LED.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon was one of the big reasons why his city was selected as a test site.  “Street lights have always been a concern with our turtles being turtle friendly.”

He says a simple conversation with the Vice Mayor of Longboat Key turned into a big goal. “And we said geez, it would really be nice if we could be a beta site and get an approved turtle light for the whole state of Florida.”

Last weekend during the new moon, FPL installed prototype LED bulbs and shields on eight street lights in Bradenton Beach and four at Turtle Beach. FWC Marine Turtle permit holder volunteers isolated a few turtle nests predicted to emerge on the night of the test, and using 30 hatchlings at each control site, released them individually and observed their reaction to the prototype LED light.

FPL turned off all the additional street lights in the area to minimize interference with the test fixtures during the experiments.  “We warned our residents that it was going to happen,” said Mayor Shearon with a laugh.

If the experiments show that the new LED lights do not disorient or mis-orient turtle hatchlings, then FPL will begin using the new lights state wide in sea turtle sensitive areas.