Signs of Hope for World’s Sea Turtles

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In recent decades there has been a dramatic decline in sea turtle populations leading to 6 out of the species to be classified as endangered. Humanity has reduced sea turtles by around 95 percent by butchering them for their meat, taking their eggs, causing them to get hooked by longline fishing gear, drown in nets and suffer from oil spills.

Sea turtles are the live representatives of a group of reptiles that have traveled our seas for the last 100 million years and are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems. They help maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs that benefit valuable species such as shrimp, lobster and tuna. The extinction of such animals would not only affect those species but trigger a domino effect and disrupt the whole food chain.  

Some facts:

  • In the North Pacific loggerheads declined about 80 percent from 2001 to 2011.
  • Adult female leatherbacks in the Pacific are down to an estimated 2,300 from 90,000 in 1980.  
  • At least 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks are caught in fishing nets annually (don’t always drown; many are released with varying degrees of injury)

However, there is hope for the sea turtle population. 4,417 annual estimates of sea turtle nesting numbers were collected from researchers of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. The researchers found that the number of turtles was increasing in 12 turtle management units around the globe and decreasing in five. The most increases occurred along the Atlantic coasts of North and South America.

Although turtle numbers are on the rise in many areas of the globe, the endangered species still needs help. In order to continue protecting this species there are many precautions that can be taken. The most obvious one would be to stop littering. If the turtles ingest certain pieces of trash that resemble different food items such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, styrofoam or fishing lures it will cause them to choke or experience digestive disturbances. Furthermore, trash also acts as a physical barrier to turtles searching for a nesting site. Disposing of fishing materials in designated bins is also important since sea turtles frequently become entangled in fishing lines and ropes.

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