- Monday 14 February 2022
Turtles and their hatchlings dig the dark and Sunshine Coast Council is testing an innovative solution to dim the night-time glow at two popular nesting beaches.
Turtle-sensitive, motion-activated streetlights have been installed at Buddina and Mudjimba beaches and council is asking the community for feedback.
Sunshine Coast Council Environment Portfolio Councillor Peter Cox said the Sunshine Coast was a turtle-friendly community and council strived to find solutions to allow our residents and our wildlife to live together in harmony.
“Research shows artificial light can disorientate turtles and hatchlings,” Cr Cox said.
“Turtles prefer to nest on dark stretches of the Coast and bright lights can cause hatchlings to become disorientated, potentially leading to death from exhaustion, dehydration and predators.
“During the lighting trial, three standard streetlights at Buddina and Mudjimba beaches have been replaced by motion-activated lights. The lights are red in colour as a recent research project found the specific wavelengths to have the least impact on hatchlings compared to other light colours.
“The lights are only activated when people are close by and can be switched back to the normal white light outside of turtle nesting season during the cooler months.
“One of the three streetlights located at Alan Walker Park is also trailing innovative world-first technology, able to switch between both the light colours remotely – which means staff don’t have to manually change the colour at the end of turtle season.
“We are also able to monitor how often the light is activated and our data has shown the light only turns on a few times a night resulting in reduced electricity consumption and lower running costs.
“These new lights are a great outcome for our turtles and for environment and economic sustainability.”
There have been 56 nests laid across Sunshine Coast beaches so far this season, with the first hatchlings emerging last weekend.
Sunshine Coast Council Division 4 Councillor Joe Natoli said council had more projects in progress at Buddina to reduce light pollution on nesting beaches.
“New signage in the parking areas at Point Cartwright asks people to turn their car headlights off while parked to stop the light shining on the beach and ocean below, and we are tracking any changes in headlight use over the summer,” Cr Natoli said.
“The lighting in the amenity block has also been changed to sensor activated lighting and screening installed to reduce light spill to the beach.
“And we’ve also been in contact with local body corporates of apartment blocks to offer support to change to turtle-friendly external lighting.
“We have also sent letters asking nearby residents to switch off their outside lights from 8pm during turtle-nesting season.
“Turtle-nesting season is a time when the whole community can come together as a turtle-friendly community to celebrate and help protect these threatened species.”
Council has partnered with Griffith University to monitor community thoughts on the lighting change at Buddina and Mudjimba beaches.
Have your say on the turtle-sensitive, motion-activated streetlight trial at haveyoursay.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/turtlecare-light-study-buddina
To report turtle tracks, new nests and emerging hatchlings on the southern end of the coast, call Sunshine Coast Council’s Turtle Care hotline 0437 559 067 or for sightings from Mooloolaba north, call Coolum and North Shore Coast Care on 0403 370 157.
Find out more about our marine turtles, the TurtleCare volunteer program and the tracking projects.
Background: For the past seven years council has been trialling the best commercially available turtle-sensitive lighting systems along the coastline, replacing existing bright lighting fixtures.
Turtles are highly impacted by bright white lights, (high in blue and green wavelengths) which result in turtle disorientation and avoidance of nesting beaches.
In 2021, council collaborated with the University of Sunshine Coast and the Department of Environment and Science to test several commercially available turtle sensitive lights and monitor their impact on turtle behaviour at Mon Repos, Bundaberg.
The study identified one type of light that had reduced impacts to turtles.
Bundaberg Regional Council has also taken a similar approach with the “reducing urban glow in Bundaberg project”— installing motion activated turtle sensitive street and pedestrian lighting at turtle-nesting beaches.