For over 100 million years, sea turtles have been roaming the waters of earth in peace. In 1970, after years of over fishing, poaching, illegal trades, coastal development, global warming, and ocean pollution, the first species of sea turtle was declared endangered. As of 2018, there are three sea turtles species that are endangered, one of which is critically endangered. There are also two species that are classified as threatened, meaning they are very close to being endangered. Will human behaviour put an end to one of the oldest species on the plant?
The first ever species of turtle to become endangered was the leather back. This was due to loss of breeding habitat, and often becoming entangled in fishing gear. The two other species, hawksbill and green, were named endangered in 1973, soon after the leatherback. These later two species were endangered due to the illegal wildlife trade, including over harvesting of sea turtle meat, eggs, leather and shell. Other species of threatened turtles include the loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtle.
The three most important threats that the turtles are facing are all due to humans. This is happening all over the world but there have been big numbers of sea turtle deaths off the coasts of Florida. Trade of the shell, meat and eggs are highly illegal all over the globe but there are still black market groups doing the job. Countries are trying harder to protect the turtles but there is only so much you could do. Poaching is happening all over the world with these sea turtles. The second main threat to the turtles are fisheries: sea turtles get caught in longlines, gill nets and trawls on the daily. The main effects that come from this are death after entanglement, habitat destruction and damage to the food web. Also there have been many reports of turtles getting large fish hooks stuck in their mouths leading to bad infection or even, in severe cases, death. The third large threat is pollution. As plastics gets into the oceans where sea turtles live they ingest it. A sea turtle may see a plastic bag as a jellyfish and try to eat it which damages their digestive systems. They could also see certain containers as fish or small marine animals.
Those are just some of the main threats, but there are also many more. Sea turtles lay their eggs on shore and when the babies hatch they have to make the life-threatening waddle to the surf. When sea turtles are on land they are slow and vulnerable. There have been numerous reports of people interrupting the hatching and laying of eggs. Also some beaches and laying spots have been interrupted by humans, and city lights close to the beach can distract the turtles from laying eggs and can attract the turtles to the city, getting them in trouble.
Humans aren’t letting this just slide by without action. There are people out in the world that really care about our earth’s future in wildlife and nature. There are countless fundraisers and websites trying to help them all over the internet. WWF is a powerful organization that protects and helps endangered animals. They are taking particularly strong actions into making sure turtles to not become extinct, patrolling beaches and shores to make sure that poaching and over harvesting does not happen, protecting marine turtle habitat to ensure no human activity is cutting into their homes and minimizing climate change effect towards the turtles.
Marine biologists have been working hard at keeping the sea turtles in existence by tracking them to see where they are failing to thrive so they can help them improve their chance of survival. Project TAMAR, a marine biologist base in Brazil, is one such organization. They are patrolling the shores and beaches where turtles lay their eggs to make sure no animals or human activity can disturb the breeding process.
Hopefully we keep help sea turtles get back to a sustainable number. It is good to see that people are taking action towards our earth. Whether it’s controlling your littering, stopping poachers, doing research or making more reserves for turtle reproduction, we are that much closer to helping the numbers go back to normal.
Photo by Brocken Inaglory