Light disorientation, a reoccurring problem for nesting sea turtles on popular Lowcountry beaches, appears to have increased in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, according to officials.
On Edisto Beach, baby sea turtles from at least nine loggerhead nests — about half the nests that have hatched — have been disoriented by streetlights and the window lights of beachfront houses so far this year, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
Comparatively, 83 nests have hatched on Hilton Head Island so far this year. Baby sea turtles from 19 of those nests — or about a fourth of the nests that have hatched — have been either been misoriented or disoriented.
About 150 light violations have been observed on Hilton Head Island so far this year. Those visitors and residents were informed about the ordinance and provided education materials, but no fines were issued, according to town officials.
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Edisto Beach turtle tracker volunteers and S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologists are concerned enough that a meeting was held earlier this week with town staff and police to “get everybody working on the same page to save turtles,” Brad Drawdy, leader of the Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project, told the Post and Courier.
Drawdy said that the annual problem of light disorientation has become worse this year due to the dune and house destruction from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, as well as a beach renourishment completed this spring.
Edisto’s nesting success rate tends to be worse than similar tourist islands, such as Folly Beach or Isle of Palms, according to DNR records.
“It makes it really hard when (town officials) won’t tell people to turn off the lights, close the blinds,” Kim Walker, a volunteer with the turtle group, told the Post and Courier.
She added, “It’s been discouraging when you see your work getting run over on the road.”