Madeira Street lights

Madeira street lights to be switched off tonight to protect shearwaters

Every year light pollution ‘dazzles’ hundreds of shearwaters, leading to them fall from sky

Tonight, on the island of Madeira, 1,000 street lights will be switched off between 8 and 11 pm in five municipalities as part of a campaign to protect shearwaters from excessive artificial light.

The blackout has been organised by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA).

The idea is that it will create a safe path in the sky so that birds can fly without incident to the sea at a time when juveniles are leaving their nests.

But more than this, SPEA is hoping to show how reducing excessive artificial lighting can save birds. writes Lusa.

According to SPEA, the period between 8 and 11 pm is the most critical for young shearwaters, as it is the time when they set out from their nests to reach the sea. 

The municipalities of Funchal, Câmara de Lobos, Santa Cruz, Machico (on the south coast of Madeira) and Santana (on the north coast) are taking part in the project, which is part of a fundraising campaign called Noite Com Vida (Night with Life), under the ‘LIFE Natura@night’ programme.

“A thousand street lamps will be switched off in Madeira, one for every 10 euros of donations raised in the Night With Life campaign,” explains SPEA, which also invites residents of Madeira to join the initiative by switching off the exterior lighting of their homes and buildings during the “mega blackout” for which it is calling.

“Every year in Madeira, the Azores and the Canary Islands, light pollution leads to hundreds of juvenile seabirds being dazzled, falling to the ground and potentially being injured or even dying,” warns SPEA, emphasising that “light pollution affects not only birds, but also countless species and even human health.”

The society believes this “mega-blackout” is a way of “making light pollution visible” and alerting people to the importance of studying its impact, as well as working with municipalities and companies to implement more efficient, more appropriate and better-targeted public lighting.

Meanwhile, until November 5, the Save a Seabird campaign is taking place in the region, in which SPEA volunteers and technicians crisscross the island in search of birds that need help to reach the sea.