Let’s switch off light pollution for turtles!

Artificial light is a high risk to our sea turtles’ reproduction and survival. To help Australia’s sea turtles, avoid using lights near their nesting beaches. Play your part to help our sea turtles by reducing your light pollution.


DESCRIPTION: An animated video. At night, a full moon shines over a beach. Beyond the beach, the bright lights of a house illuminate people seated on a deck. The light casts a white glow over the surrounding environment: tall trees, shrubs and grass. The light of the moon appears dimmer.

SPEAKER: Artificial light is a high risk to our sea turtles’ reproduction and survival.

DESCRIPTION: The artificial light catches on the surface of the water. A sea turtle floating nearby looks on contemptuously, then swims away.

SPEAKER: Many females won’t lay their eggs on brightly lit beaches.

DESCRIPTION: At another beach, the full light of the moon and stars bounces off the water. A small bale turtles crawl across the sand, guided by the light.

SPEAKER: Baby sea turtles find the ocean using the reflection of the moon and stars on the water.

DESCRIPTION: Artificial light radiates from nearby buildings and a pier to the right of the turtles. As they reach the water’s edge, one of the turtles’ changes course, and heads toward the pier. The weary turtle drags itself along the shoreline. A predatory bird screeches as it rears itself from behind a nearby sand mound.

SPEAKER: Artificial light can disorient them and make them more vulnerable to predators and dehydration.

DESCRIPTION: The exterior and interior lights of a beachside apartment complex cast a bright, white glow, over the surrounding environment. The lights dim. The external lights emit amber-coloured beams.

SPEAKER: To help Australia’s sea turtles, avoid using lights near their nesting beaches.

DESCRIPTION: Sand dunes, trees and bushes appear on the beach below.

SPEAKER: Maintain a dune or vegetation screen.

DESCRIPTION: A boat shines a torchlight into the water below. A sea turtle, caught in the beam, swims toward the boat. The light turns off, and the turtle swims toward the moonlight.

SPEAKER: Only use lights where you really need.

DESCRIPTION: The bright interior lights of the boat’s cabin turn off. Two amber lights turn on. On land, the bright, white lights of a home turn off. A single, amber floodlight above the front door turns on.

SPEAKER: And use low intensity on land and water, and amber lights on land.

DESCRIPTION: Guided by the moonlight, a bale of sea turtles crawl toward the water.

SPEAKER: Play your part to help our sea turtles by reducing your light pollution.

DESCRIPTION: A URL on screen:  awe.gov.au/light-pollution

SPEAKER: Consult the National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife to find out more about how you can help.

DESCRIPTION: Text on screen reads: Let’s switch off light pollution together. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms Appears above the text: Australian Government - Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

SPEAKER: Let’s switch off light pollution together.


Light pollution hurts marine turtles

Artificial light is a high-risk threat to Australia’s marine turtles

  • Female turtles prefer to nest on naturally dark beaches
  • After hatching, baby turtles (hatchlings) immediately crawl towards light low on the horizon, which in natural landscapes is the ocean
  • Artificial light confuses hatchlings, causing them to crawl in circles, travel away from the ocean, or to swim away from deep water
  • Confused hatchlings are more likely to die due to predation, exhaustion or vehicle strike.
Illustration of a turtle facing the moon
Illustration of a turtle swimming towards a brightly lit house

Which lights are most harmful?

  • Hatchlings orient towards the brightest light
  • In dark regional areas, even distant lights (up to 18km) can disorient hatchlings
  • Blue, green, UV and white lights have the most harmful effect on turtles
  • Amber, red and blinking lights have a weaker effect
  • Elevated lighting can be seen by turtles at greater distances.

Management of light pollution near turtle habitat is a conservation priority.

Six species of marine turtles breed in tropical and subtropical regions from northern NSW to WA. All 6 are listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Adult females dig nests on sandy beaches to lay their eggs. Hatchlings immediately travel towards the ocean and swim out to sea. Turtles generally nest in summer, but season can differ by location and species. Nesting and hatching occur at night.

How you can help

  • Don’t illuminate beaches.
  • If lights are needed, choose low-intensity amber or red lighting.
  • During nesting and hatching seasons, turn off lights that spill onto beaches between 7 pm and midnight.
  • Avoid gas flares and industrial lighting where visible from beaches or inshore waters.
  • In regional areas, avoid distant lights visible from beaches.
  • Reduce skyglow by pointing all outdoor lighting downwards and using shielding to reduce light spill.