Sea turtle deaths prove importance of 'Lights Out' initiative - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Sea turtle deaths prove importance of 'Lights Out' initiative

Conservationists remind you to turn off your lights (Source: WTOC) Conservationists remind you to turn off your lights (Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Sea turtle conservation groups are trying to pound their message home for everyone after a tragedy in the Lowcountry. 

Nearly 100 baby loggerheads are dead, disoriented by porch lights at a Hilton Head beach rental.

Just on Hilton Head Island, close to 50,000 turtles could be coming up through the sand in the next few months. That makes their message even more important. Amid the crashing waves and hundreds of tourists, thousands more lie in peace under the sand.

"We have 401 nests on our beach. They average about 120 eggs in each nest," said Loggerhead Sea Turtle Protection Project member Jayme Lopko.

The loggerhead sea turtles' presence is part of a beach renourishment project by the folks on Hilton Head Island. It’s a spectacle not only for beachgoers but also the ones who watch after the nests.

"Obviously, we all have full-time jobs outside of it, but we would be out here 24/7 to protect the turtles if we had a choice," said Lopko.

That's why their message to any of you occupying these beaches is simple: Turn off your lights at night.

"It's absolutely crucial to protect the endangered species. All sea turtles, are endangered and need to be protected,” said Lopko.

In a perfect world, the baby turtles come out of the sand, open their eyes, and are drawn to the water when they see the moon reflect off the ocean.

That didn't happen late last month when four nests hatched.

"The hatchlings that came out of those nests saw the lights from the house and went towards the house instead of the ocean," said Lopko.

Potentially 100 turtles were lost because of that occupant's mistake. Walking the beach, some tourists know.

"The lights do bother them, and they go there,” said Janie Thompson, visiting from Tennessee.

Others have never heard the warnings.

"I had no idea,” said Don Meyer, from Virginia.

Most agree, though, how important it is to do our part.

"That's something we should obviously be aware of and folks should do a better job of being mindful of that kind of thing," said Meyer.

"They get in enough trouble when they get in the water," said Thompson.

As thousands of turtles start popping out of the sand and focus on their new lives in the sea, it's important for the rest of us to focus on offering a clear path.

Lopko said the turtles are only attracted to white light and not red or amber lights. She did admit that unfortunately hundreds of these hatchlings will die every year.  It's just become part of the process.

It's also why these conservationists spend so much of their time getting out the word that this time of year, it's "Lights Out" at the beach. 

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