Jodie Eldridge here, the environmental expert on the Watt’s Team, and I’d like to share how our environmental programs are making a positive impact on Florida’s wildlife. March kicks off sea turtle nesting season in Florida. During the season, leatherback, loggerhead and green sea turtles lay their eggs along our coastline. Not only are all species of sea turtles protected under the Endangered Species Act, but they are also keystone species, which means the entire habitat could be disrupted without their presence. FPL understands just how vital these marine animals are to the ocean ecosystem and supports a variety of initiatives meant to help protect and rehabilitate these amazing creatures.
If you’ve ever walked along Florida’s beaches during sea turtle nesting season, you’ve likely seen signs about turning lights off or closing the blackout curtains in hotels or residences along the coast. This is because lights can confuse turtles and cause them to head away from the sea rather than toward it. Streetlights can have the same negative impact. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) receives numerous calls each year about disoriented turtles heading toward the lights.
Did you know that FPL operates streetlights in counties across the state? To keep turtles from wandering away from the ocean, FPL undertook a research initiative to find a new kind of streetlight that could remain on without distracting them. A thorough 2014 study found operating certain red lights will not have a negative impact on the turtles. Since then, FWC has also approved an amber streetlight option. Both options help improve safety, as the lights can remain on throughout nesting season, while also protecting the sea turtle population.
Protecting Florida’s environment and wildlife is a commitment and responsibility we do not take lightly. After all, FPL employees and customers also live here and happily enjoy the state’s many natural wonders. FPL has several longtime community partners in the environmental space, including one of more than four decades — Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC).
LMC works to promote the conservation of ocean ecosystems, with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. It also provides learning and research opportunities for marine animal experts around the world. As part of this partnership, we donated $1 million to the Sea Turtle Hospital when LMC launched its Waves of Progress Capital Expansion Campaign, and our employees have donated countless volunteer hours to various initiatives at LMC over the years.
There are two important aspects to sea turtle conservation — research and rescue/rehabilitation. They happen in an unexpected location: FPL’s St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant on Hutchinson Island near a well-traveled “turtle expressway.” Just like in Disney’s “Finding Nemo” movie, turtles catch a ride on the Gulf Stream current and occasionally make their way into the plant’s adjacent canal.
Inwater Research Group biologists monitor the canal daily, and it has provided a valuable opportunity for these researchers to retrieve the turtles, give them a checkup, measure, tag and release them back into the open ocean safely. If researchers recover a hurt or sick turtle — whether bitten by a shark, tangled in fishing line or debris, or simply ill — they can contact FWC for direction on transporting the animal to LMC or another sea turtle hospital for rehabilitation.
By studying and caring for these turtles, LMC has discovered new ways to treat sick turtles and promote the recovery of sea turtle populations.
Living in Florida means appreciating its unique environment and all the flora and fauna that come with it. As a biologist specializing in sea turtles, these creatures hold a special place in my heart. To learn more about FPL’s sustainability and environmental protection initiatives, look out for more of my blogs on the Watt’s Happening page!