October 17, 2022
The Maui County Council passed an ordinance to protect birds and other animals from the dangers of artificial light.
Electricity and the light bulb are two inventions that significantly changed everyone’s lives. Many cannot imagine living without its convenience today, but outdoor artificial light has a negative side—it impedes the night migration patterns of birds and sea turtles. It causes confusion that can be deadly as birds fly aimlessly around, unaware they are off course until utterly exhausted. Some fall from the sky, suffering injuries, while others are vulnerable to predators when resting and gathering their strength. When birds are found on the ground recovering, it is called a “fallout.”
Endangered sea turtles are another vulnerable species impacted by artificial light. After the sea turtle hatchlings break free from their eggs, they start the long crawl to safety in the ocean’s depths, instinctually guided by the moon shining on the water’s surface. Artificial light dangerously detours them from their destination and greatly diminishes their chances of survival—the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (one of NHES’ Alliance Partnership Programs) confirms their slim survival rate stating, “Scientists guestimate that only one sea turtle hatchling in 1,000 survive to sexual maturity.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nineteen states have passed laws concerning light pollution. The states include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.
The beautiful island of Hawaii is home to many birds and sea turtles. Although Hawaii already has a light pollution law that was passed in 2012, Maui County has gone a step further to increase protections for its wildlife, specifically seabirds, with the introduction of Bill 21. A news article recently shared how Maui County lawmakers support Bill 21 despite controversy. The new law will require all residents and businesses to make sure their outdoor lighting meets the following criteria by 2026:
Take Action: Turn your outdoor lights off from dusk until dawn to limit light pollution in your area. Maui County residents, thank your council members and Mayor Victorino for supporting efforts to protect your state’s wildlife.