For more than 100 million years sea turtles have covered immense distances across the oceans. Sea turtles known as long living animals fill a vital role in the balance of marine ecosystems. They survived the dinosaurs era when they became extinct 65 million years ago, today six out of seven species of sea turtles are endangered .
In the oceans, sea turtles help to maintain the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs where species such as shrimp, lobster and tuna growth. Marine turtles eat sea grass. Sea grass needs to be constantly cut short to help it grow across the sea floor.
Sea turtles use beaches and the lower dunes to nest and lay their eggs. Beaches and dunes are a fragile habitat that depend on vegetation to protect against erosion. Eggs, hatched or unhatched that fail to make it into the ocean are nutrient sources for dune vegetation.
There are seven different species of sea turtles and nearly all species are classified as endangered or threatened. A report on the health of the ocean found that the marine vertebrate population has declined by 49 percent between 1970 and 2012.
They journey between land and sea and swim thousands of miles during their long lifetimes, exposing them to countless threats. They wait decades until they can reproduce, returning to the same beaches where they were born to lay their eggs.
The multiple threats caused by humans embrace poaching, over-exploitation, habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. According to WWF –World Wide Fund, 90% population decline of Eastern Pacific leatherback over the last 30 years. Yes just 30 years! Tens of thousands of sea turtles are lost each year to overharvesting and illegal trade. For more information see the infographic here.
What we must know about sea turtles threats?
The EMK for sea turtles biggest threats include:
- Turtles are exploited for both human consumption and trade. Poaching and illegal trade of eggs, meat, and shells. Estimates reach as high as 35,000 sea turtles killed a year in Mexicoand the same number in Nicaragua.
- Habitat loss, sea turtles depend on beaches for nesting. Human activities have destroyed or disturbed most of their nesting spots around the world.
- Climate change is one of the major drivers causing the ocean to change more rapidly than ever. As the climate responds to increasing carbon emissions, the exchange in the oceans intensifies. This may result in extreme weather events, changing ocean currents, rising sea temperatures, and increasing acidity level.
- Caught by accident in fishing gear: Hundreds of thousands of turtles are caught in fishing gear every year.
- Plastic and other marine debris: another danger comes from marine debris, mainly plastics which may be mistaken for jellyfish, and abandoned fishing netsin which they can become entangled.
- Ocean pollution Sea turtles are vulnerable to oil pollution, both because of their tendency to linger on the water’s surface, and because oil can affect them at every stage of their life cycle.
What can we do?
Some simple actions to protect sea turtles:
- Don’t leave trash on the beach. Quite basic staff but sometimes we forget how important is this for our oceans and turtles
- Don’t buy products made of sea turtles shells, like eyeglass frames or combs. They are part of the illegal wildlife trade. Yes combs!
- Choose sustainable seafood can help save sea turtles
- Learn, share and teach others how to help!
Many of us learned from the popular Jean de la Fontaine children’s fable “Le Lièvre et la Tortue” (The Hare and the Tortoise), the virtue of setting and maintaining a pace to achieve our goals. We all have dreams and goals but to reach them we need to be persistent and take one step every day.
Now please share and teach others how to move forward, one step every day to build our new future. Hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed writing about sea turtles.
“’Slow and steady wins the race” as the age old proverb said
Other sources and information