Advancing Knowledge, Awareness, and Solutions for a Brighter Marine Future

Our Path to Healthier Oceans

GOALANN is an international network of the world’s leading experts in marine light pollution.  Our mission is to conserve the oceans by improving knowledge and awareness of marine light pollution, its ecological and societal impacts, and management options.

The initiative unifies research groups from around the world to provide a central resource of marine light pollution expertise, projects and tools for policy makers, environmental managers, maritime industries, the media and the public.

What is Marine Light Pollution?

Marine light pollution is any light produced from manmade sources that enters the marine environment. Light emissions originate from coastal developments, shipping, ports (including harbours and marinas), offshore infrastructure, fisheries and recreational boating.

This light illuminates marine ecosystems up to 100 times brighter than the light of the full moon. Marine organisms are very light sensitive in every part of their life cycles, and so the sudden introduction of artificial lighting has a multitude of environmental impacts.

Artificial light changes the natural light environment in four ways

These changes happen both locally within the immediate (1-1000m) vicinity of light sources (known as direct lighting), but also much further away (1km-100km) as a result of the scattering of artificial light in the atmosphere (known as artificial skyglow).

It brightens the natural light environment enabling organisms to ‘see’ better than they otherwise would.

It interferes with natural cycles, for example masking detectability of monthly moonlight cycles that organisms use to time important events.

It masks the position of the moon and milky way in the sky that many organisms use as compasses to guide long distance migrations.

Light-emitting diodes better enable organisms to ‘see’ colour in the nighttime environment.

How are marine ecosystems impacted by light pollution?

Any biological adaptation that utilizes light can be impacted by light pollution.  The most obvious is the ability of animals to ‘see’ their environment to hunt, hide, communicate, navigate grow and reproduce. There is now an overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates all these processes are affected in some way by marine light pollution.

This includes: disruption of the synchronised broadcast spawning response in corals which is critical for maintaining healthy coral reef ecosystems; suppression of the nighttime upward migration of zooplankton which represents the largest daily migration of biomass on the planet; and the disorientation of sea turtle hatchlings as they make their way seaward in the hope of avoiding predators.

The impact of light pollution on marine organisms is sufficient for other species in marine food webs to be impacted, and to change the composition of the whole marine ecosystem.

Zooplankton are disturbed by light pollution to depths of 100m and more.

Light pollution from cities disrupts coral broadcast spawning by 1-3 days.

Marine birds, sea turtles, fish and a host of invertebrate species are impacted by light pollution from the tropics to the polar seas.

How can we manage
marine light pollution?

Reducing light emissions into marine ecosystems is challenging.  Often lighting is necessary to ensure the safety of the public or employees, installations must meet nationally or internationally legislated standards, and public opinion of lighting sways more towards its perceived benefits that its documented impacts.

At GOALANN we provide advice to policy makers, environmental managers and stakeholders on how to light coastal and offshore developments in a way that is more sensitive to neighbouring ecosystems. If you are involved with a new development where lighting is installed adjacent to marine ecosystems, we suggest you ask the following five questions:

Some developments may need to install lighting for safety or legal reasons while others may be proposing lighting for purely aesthetic purposes.

Minimum requirements may need to be met, but do lights really need to brighter than this? Dimmed light save energy, money and reduce environmental impacts.

It might not be necessary to keep lights on all night.  Part night lighting, where lights are switched off during periods of low demand, is increasingly common.

Ensure installations are designed in a way that minimises artificial light spilling into the surrounding environment where it is not needed.

It might not be necessary to keep lights on all night.  Part night lighting, where lights are switched off during periods of low demand, is increasingly common.

This should be the last option to consider.  The scientific evidence underpinning the costs and benefits of alternative colours is currently too weak to provide solid recommendations. In marine ecosystems however, red lighting may have the least environmental impact.  This is because red light penetrates less far in seawater and fewer species are adapted to detect and respond to red light.

How can you get involved?

Stakeholders and environmental managers

If you have a question about marine light pollution, how to manage its impacts, or simply want to make contact with the right experts in this field, you can contact us at GOALANN….

You can also browse our useful links and archive of marine light pollution research.

Academic researchers

If you are a researcher interested in marine light pollution and would like to join the GOALANN network, you can complete your own expert profile for our web pages here.

Project Managers

If you are project manager and would like to showcase your project on the GOALANN website, you can create your own project summary web page here.


If you would like to add your publication to our archive of marine light pollution research, you can do so here.

Search the wider web