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U.S. Fish & Wildlife cracking down on condo lights impacting sea turtle hatching

GULF SHORES, Ala. (WPMI) — The US Fish and Wildlife Service is cracking down on Alabama beachfront condominiums with lighting that's impacting sea turtle nesting and hatching.

The department has long sought to eliminate light pollution harming sea turtles, but now they're stepping up their efforts along the Baldwin County coast.

"The best thing for sea turtles would be to have no light on the beach. But everybody realizes that we have tourism. People are going to use the beach so we have to come to a compromise," said Shannon Holbrook, Biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Holbrook said bright white lights from condos and other businesses can disorient the hatchlings, which are looking for the reflection of moon light on Gulf waters.

According to Holbrook, new efforts are being made to make sure business owners install Amber lights. Ideally, the lights will be low to the ground, and shielded to cut down the glow.

"We send letters to ones we know have had disorientations and say 'Hey we want to work with you to get this fixed.' And if they continue to have disorientations, that's when law enforcement can get involved," Holbrook said.

But no part of it is cheap, or simple.

Daniel Craven, A Gulf Shores attorney who represents more than a hundred condo associations, said many of owners are working to meet federal standards while making sure their properties are still safe.

"The average association with a hundred owners is probably looking at probably $50,000 to retrofit their lighting. We're trying to balance being turtle friendly, but still being safe and lighted enough so that somebody doesn't trip or somebody doesn't feel unsafe," said Craven.

However, beachgoers like Markeita Novak said it's an effort that's well worth it.

"They need their space. They were here before we were. Everybody needs to do their part to help with the sea turtles," Novak said.

Craven also said condo associations found to cause the deaths of disoriented sea turtles could see fines of $25,000 for each hatchling killed.

See NBC 15 News article with video . . .