Lights Out for Turtles

With over 10,000 acres of land and 10 miles of beach, Kiawah serves as a vital nesting ground for loggerhead turtles. Nesting efforts are monitored by a group of dedicated resident volunteers each year and are one of the largest turtle patrol volunteer programs in the United States!  Kiawah’s Turtle Patrol has been in existence since 1973, and the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) has provided funding and logistical support to the program since 1990.

Lights Out: It's the Law! 

Because our barrier island beaches serve as nesting places for endangered sea turtles, the Town of Kiawah Island has enacted a "Lights Out" ordinance during the sea turtle nesting season: May 1 to October 31 to protect sea turtles that nest along the beaches of Kiawah Island by safeguarding nesting females and hatchlings from sources of artificial light.

Female Loggerhead sea turtles come ashore from May through August to deposit their eggs. Approximately two months later, hatchlings emerge from the nest, usually at night, and head to the ocean. The natural light reflecting off the water helps them find their way. Lights on or near the beach can confuse the baby turtles, and if they head away from the surf, then dehydration and susceptibility to predators increases. This also exhausts their limited energy supply needed to swim up to sixty miles to the protection of the thick mass of free-floating seaweed known as Sargassum.

Failure to do so can result in a hefty fine!

  • No artificial light shall illuminate any area of the beaches of Kiawah.
  • No exterior point source (light bulb) of artificial light shall be visible from the beach.
  • Use of unfiltered lights (any color spectrum except red), including but not limited to flashlights, cellular phones, and cameras, by persons is prohibited on the beach from 9 p.m. until dawn from May 1 to October 31 of each year (free red filters are available at the Municipal Center and the Nature Center at Night Heron Park).
  • For new construction, tinted or filmed glass shall be used in all windows facing the ocean.
  • The illumination from beachfront organized functions or special event lighting shall not spread beyond the boundary of the property, and in no case shall those lights illuminate the beach or shall the point source of light be visible from the beach. No organized functions or special events shall take place seaward of the OCRM setback line between dusk and dawn from May 1 to October 31 of each year.
  • To report a light violation, call Town Code Enforcement at 843-259-2137
The Town of Kiawah Island full ordinance can be found here.

Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Artificial Lighting