Sea Turtle Nesting on the Alabama Gulf Coast
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides a framework to conserve and protect endangered, threatened species and their habitats, both domestically and abroad.
There are 117 endangered species in the state of Alabama, with 22 of them being critically endangered. The sea turtle ranks high on this list. As conservators of our great resources and inhabitants, there is much we can do for the sea turtles on the Gulf Coast.
The sea turtle’s nesting period is approximately May 1 through October 31. During this time, the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, guided by the light of the stars. The turtles can get very disoriented by the lights of the condominiums, pool & boardwalk decks, parking area lights, and even the lights in your Gulf-facing living room and kitchen! As guests, you can help prevent the light pollution and aid the turtles who are nesting by closing your curtains when it gets dark.
Additional hazards for these creatures are holes that have been dug in the sand during the day, but not filled back in. When walking the beach at night, take care to use special amber or red flashlights, and fill in the holes you see that were dug on the beach during the day. Above all, respect all roped off nesting areas. If you are lucky enough to see a turtle coming ashore, please let them be. Do not attempt to help them or try to get a “selfie” picture with the turtle.
It became city ordinance in November 2005 for every permit for NEW construction to be approved by the City of Orange Beach/City of Gulf Shores. This includes review of the physical location and building plans to abide by the Endangered Species Act. After 2011, special attention was paid to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Sea Turtle Directives and outdoor lighting plans were required for approval. Last of note, both cities have set a goal to have both the north and south side of the beach road compliant with all wildlife requirements within the next 10 years.
As for existing properties and structures, there remains much that can be done aside from just changing the color of the lights to amber. For example, retrofitting balcony lights to hang cylinders, or preferably using “uplighting,” helps with light pollution spilling over to the beach. Also, the height of parking lot lights should be no higher than 15’. Pool deck and boardwalk lights can be changed to a low and shielded lighting.
For a list of ways to help make your condominium “turtle compliant,” please contact Shannon Holbrook with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Daphne, AL at firstname.lastname@example.org. The FWS realizes that these changes can be costly for condominium owners and HOAs. Shannon is happy to help you set up a plan that can be drawn out over multiple years to help defray costs.
There are also PSAs available from the FWS to display rotating messages on televisions in the lobbies, provided your building has this setup. For those HOAs hoping to better educate their guests, there are “tools” available such as key chains (for buildings with hard keys), $5 red “turtle” flashlights that can be sold at the Service Desks, rubber bracelets to give to guests reminding them of “Lights Out May 1 - Oct 31”, magnets for refrigerators, static clings for sliding glass doors, and a cute turtle cut out stand for your Service Desk!
If you wish to get involved or become a “turtle volunteer,” you can join the “Share the Beach” program by going to joinacf.com, or by calling 866-SEA-TURTLE.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to have a recognition ceremony at the end of turtle season, recognizing all properties that have made concerted efforts and/or are completely “turtle compliant.” Being turtle compliant is also a wonderful opportunity for marketing your properties!