SAVING SEA TURTLES
by Khadijah Rahim
Sea Turtles have been around for over 100 million years flourishing in great numbers; but with the appearance of humans in the seas, sea turtles have been added to the list of endangered animals with an estimated 6.5 million left in the world.
Within the last 200 years, human activities have put sea turtles at risk. Captured for their meat, eggs, skin, and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation with many even being accidentally caught in fishing nets. Since sea turtles need to surface for air in order to breathe, once caught they may drown. Accidental capture leading to death is one of the rising threats to endangered sea turtles; and with an increase in fishing, this threat becomes more prominent. Harvested for food, trade, religious ceremonies, and medical use, tens and thousands of sea turtles meet their end each year. Along with this, comes the threat of pollution. Plastic in the ocean can often be mistaken for food. Consumption of plastic often leads to fatal outcomes. Discarded fishing gear tossed into the ocean may wound a sea turtle rendering it unable to swim, feed, and reproduce. And though many threats to sea turtles exist in the water, there are just as many on land as well.
Sea turtles rely on beaches to nest. Coastal development, traffic near beaches, and human activity in a nesting site lead to destruction of their habitat. Lights on nearby roads distract baby sea turtles, making their journey into the ocean even more difficult. Vehicles on a beach compact the sand making it difficult for a female turtle to dig nests. Coral reefs and seagrass, which are primarily feeding ground, are often demolished due to onshore human activities. And now, climate change also lends itself to threats against sea turtles. Unusually warm temperatures disrupt the sex of newborn turtles, causing for fewer male hatchlings. Warmer sea surface temperatures lead to the loss of foraging grounds while severe storms can wreck nesting sites.
Despite the hardships sea turtles endure, there’s still hope! By informing yourself you can take positive action!
Take Instant Action in 3 steps:
- Educate yourself so you can pass on this critical information to someone else.
- Skip the plastic and go for something reusable to help our oceans stay clean.
- Curb climate change by turning off the lights when you leave a room.
Most importantly, use your voice! Speak up – it can save a sea turtle’s life.
Source: “Sea Turtles.” Animals, 28 Jan. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/group/sea-turtles/