Story originally published on page 25 of Florida Restaurant and Lodging Magazine’s winter 2016 issue.
As General Manager of the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, Russ Kimball’s priority is to keep hotel guests safe and happy. So when Clearwater Marine Aquarium notified him two years ago that his hotel’s outdoor lighting needed to become sea-turtle compliant, he was nervous.
“I wasn’t sure if a different kind of lighting would allow my guests to see well enough to move around safely outside of the hotel, especially near the pool,” said Kimball. “And I was hesitant to start a big job that would disrupt my customers.”
Since sea turtles are a protected species, state laws and local ordinances mandate that beachfront hotels abide by strict lighting guidelines during sea turtle mating season, which runs from May 1 to October 31. Improper lighting represents a threat to the endangered species because hatchlings have an instinct to travel toward the brightest horizon – normally the moon’s reflection off of the ocean. But near many beachfront hotels, hatchlings become disoriented and travel toward artificial bright lights and often die from dehydration or are killed by fire ants and ghost crabs. To increase their chances of survival, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) adopted guidelines to ensure that beachfront hotel lighting doesn’t confuse the young turtles.
Knowing that he needed to abide by these guidelines, Kimball called Brilliant Nights last May to get a clearer picture of what such a lighting job would require. Rick Bequette, owner of the Tampa-based outdoor lighting company, explained that turtle compliant lighting has a red or amber hue that turtles don’t confuse with the moon’s reflection. He demonstrated what turtle-friendly lighting would look like in several areas of the hotel, including near the pool, and proposed an installation schedule that would not disrupt guests. Kimball hired Brilliant Nights to install 500 new fixtures around the property and in July, the hotel was declared turtly-friendly by Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
“It really helped for Rick to show me how the lights would look,” said Kimball. “We came away with a solution that works well for guests and is helping to keep sea turtles safe.”
Brilliant Nights can offer solutions to help your beachfront property become sea-turtle compliant. To make an appointment or to learn more about turtle friendly lighting, contact Rick Bequette at 813-785- 7557 or visit brilliantnights.com.