To mitigate the amount of light from residential beachfront properties, South Carolina Rep. Greg Hembree introduced several amendments to the Sea Turtle Protection Act that states beachfront homeowners should use tinted glass, filmed glass or shade screens on windows facing the ocean above the first floor of a multistory structure when practical.

Hembree also seeks to add an amendment that window treatments in windows facing the ocean above the first floor of a multistory structure must prevent the interior lights from illuminating the beach.

Any person in violation of these proposals would face fines between $200-$500. Each day in violation of this article constitutes a separate offense.

Baby sea turtles have a rough start to life. Not only do they have to navigate beach debris, birds and crabs, but they also have to correctly determine the proper path to the sea. This becomes more difficult when a turtle is born in an area inundated with light pollution from beach houses and hotels.

Sea turtles use the light from the moon to migrate to the ocean. When light emits from a beachfront property window, turtles become disoriented, which causes them to wander from the ocean. This frequently results in their death, states South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources.

South Carolina’s Sea Turtle Protection Act was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 12, 2021, and currently resides in the Senate Committee on Fish, Game and Forestry. Along with Hembree’s proposed amendments, the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) is collaborating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to determine a transmitted standard for tinted glass in areas where sea turtles are likely to nest.

The FGIA formed a sea turtle glass issue task group in May 2021, said Jennifer Hatfield, FGIA’s codes consultant. The group has met with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to study options, provide samples of different glass, discuss concerns and find a reasonable solution.

“We talked about the details of the proposed sea turtle testing procedures for informing the type, the size, the thickness the wavelength of monolithic and laminated glass samples so we can know better what to provide them,” Hatfield said.

Sea turtles do have legal protection in the U.S. and its waters under the Endangered Species Act, which lists the hawksbill, leatherback, kemp’s ridley and green turtle as endangered. That protection only makes it illegal to harm, harass or kill any sea turtles, hatchlings or their eggs. It is also illegal to import, sell, or transport turtles or their products.

States, however, have gone a step further and introduced or passed regulations to eliminate or control artificial beachfront lighting, which is known to deter females from nesting and disorient hatchlings.

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