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Turtle-friendly night lights for Barrow Island

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A wildlife-friendly mobile lighting system designed to illuminate mining and construction sites in environmentally sensitive areas, is being developed in response to calls for a lifeline for Barrow Island’s flat backed turtle population; which could be threatened when the $50bn Gorgon project gets underway.  

Known as Australia’s Ark because the Class-A nature reserve holds mammals that are rare, if non-existent, anywhere else in the world, the island is also one of the world’s top breeding grounds for sea turtles.  

Studies have shown that turtles are dramatically disorientated by artificial light; which makes it harder for them to reach the sea quickly from their beach nests.  

High bright light from industrial projects is known to be particularly attractive to vulnerable hatchlings; often making them move in the wrong direction. Delays in their journey to the water can result in death from exhaustion and dehydration – as well as from the predators who find them easier to spot.  

Many large oil and gas exploration projects rely on artificial light for 24-hour operation processes and security, and the fear is that the Barrow Island turtle rookeries may be exposed to disorienting bright white light throughout the night.  

As a result, a restriction of light emissions is one of the environmental conditions imposed on Barrow Island’s joint developers; Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell.  

In lighting experiments conducted on Barrow Island in 2005, Murdoch University PhD and researcher Kellie Pendoley proved that the type of light used affects the level of disorientation – and that sodium vapour lights had less potential to disorientate hatchlings than flouride or metal halide light sources.  

By designing its new EnviroLight system to work with sodium vapour lamps, Perth-based manufacturer Allight Pty Ltd believes it can help the Barrow Island project engineers to significantly reduce the threat to the turtles without any loss of production efficiency or impact on site safety, as Managing Director Patrick Walsh explained.      

“As more and more environmentally-sensitive areas such as isolated islands are developed - and there is an increase in rigs and construction facilities – more and more natural light horizons will be altered and the greater the lighting management challenge will become,” he said.  

“One of the advantages of having spent the last 20 years designing and developing mobile lighting systems for mining and construction companies around the world, is that we have the specialist knowledge and infrastructure to be able to identify and address specific safety and environmental challenges such as this, quickly and without fuss.  

“Because the system uses sodium vapour lighting instead of the usual metal halide lamps, and so produces a softer luminous glow than a piercing white glare, EnviroLight will be a major step forward in the combined efforts to make Barrow Island as safe as possible for its wildlife while also giving the contractors the cutting-edge lighting technology upon which they’ve come to rely.”

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