Sea Turtles! How Can We Save Them?

By Ukiah P., Nicole N., Makinley I., Luis B., and Kate C.

OVERVIEW

Sea turtles are one of the Earth's most ancient creatures. The seven species that can be found today have been around for 110 million years. With features well-adapted to sea life, their agile mobility underwater does not carry over to their travels on the beach. On land they move slowly, laboriously pulling themselves along with their flippers. They are well-adapted to life in the marine environment. They inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world. Sadly, the fact is that they face many dangers as they travel the seas — including accidental capture and entanglement in fishing gear (also known as bycatch), the loss of nesting and feeding sites to coastal development, poaching, and ocean pollution including plastic.

WHY THEY MATTER

How are Sea Turtles Important to the Ecosystem?

Sea turtles are part of two ecosystems, the beach/dune system and the marine system. If sea turtles went extinct, both the marine and beach/dune ecosystems would be negatively affected. And since humans utilize the marine ecosystem as a natural resource for food and since humans utilize the beach/dune system for a wide variety of activities, a negative impact to these ecosystems would negatively affect humans. Sea turtles and manatees act as grazing animals that cut the grass short and help maintain the health of the sea grass beds.

THREATS

Worldwide, six of the seven sea turtle species are classified as threatened or endangered due to human actions and lifestyles. Their biggest threats include: Entanglement in fishing gear. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Currently, it is estimated that there are 100 million tons of plastic in oceans around the world. Many turtles, that have been killed by consuming debris, had plastic bags or fishing line in their stomachs, some as small as half of a fingernail. Sea turtles are especially susceptible to the effects of consuming marine debris due to their bodies' own structure. They have downward facing spines in their throats which prevent the possibility of regurgitation. The plastics get trapped in their stomach, which prevents them from properly swallowing food.

Poaching and illegal trade of eggs, meat, and shells. Sea turtles continue to be harvested both for human consumption and trade of their parts. Turtle meat and eggs are a source of food and income for many people around the world also kill turtles for medicine and religious ceremonies.
Baby Sea Turtles Hatching

Sea Turtle Conservation

Thousands of sea turtles around the world have been tagged to help collect information about their growth rates, reproductive cycles and migration routes. After decades of studying sea turtles, much has been learned. However, many mysteries still remain.