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World Sea Turtle Day

Happy World Sea Turtle Day!

Related: 8 ways to help coral reefs

A turtle’s journey

  • Sea turtles make massive journeys, migrating thousands of miles long across the world to breed/feed
  • They mate in the sea and then come back to the beach to lay their eggs, they then dig a hole, bury them and go back to sea
  • Once the eggs have incubated (usually around 60 days), they hatch and make their way to the water -> this is very dangerous as seabirds and crabs prey on the hatchlings
  • Another threat of them going into the sea at night is lights from hotels and buildings, they are drawn to light and it’s hard for them to know the difference between the natural light and artificial light so they can get confused and head in the wrong direction

There are 7 different species of sea turtles: Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley and Flatback turtles. Here is a summary of them:

Loggerhead

  • The only sea turtle species that aren’t listed as endangered
  • Majority of nesting is in Masirah Island, Oman and the southeastern United States
  • Populations are declining
  • Primarily carnivorous -> feed mostly on shellfish at the bottom of the ocean
  • Like to feed best in coastal bays, estuaries and shallow water
  • Lay around 100 -126 eggs in each nest -> eggs incubate for 60 days ish
  • Listed as vulnerable
  • The greatest threat is the loss of nesting habitats from coastal development and human disturbances (additionally, pollution and bycatch from longline fishing and shrimp trawling)
  • Approx. 40,000 – 50,000 nesting females

Green

  • The largest nesting site is in Costa Rica (Sea Turtle Conservation have been running a research programme there since 1959)
  • Increasing numbers on the east coast of Florida
  • Adults are strictly herbivorous (when they are young they eat insects, worms and young crustaceans along with grasses and algae)
  • Live near the coastline, around islands, in bays and protected areas (seagrass beds)
  • Not often in the open ocean
  • Approx. 115 eggs in each nest
  • Listed as endangered
  • The biggest threat is commercial harvest for eggs and food (can be used for leather)
  • Approx. 85,000 – 90,000 nesting females

Leatherback

  • Largest and dives the deepest
  • Declining population
  • Diet is almost only jellyfish
  • Mostly found in the open ocean
  • Feed in areas just offshore
  • Lays around 80 fertilized eggs and 30 unfertilized eggs -> incubated for 65 days
  • Found worldwide
  • Can swim thousands of miles against fast currents
  • Listed as vulnerable
  • The biggest threat is plastic pollution
  • Approx. 34,000 – 36,000 nesting females

Hawksbill

  • Declining population
  • Nest on beaches throughout the Caribbean but aren’t found in large numbers
  • Found in US waters but rarely nest there
  • They eat sponges, anemones, squid and shrimp in crevices in coral reefs
  • Lays around 160 eggs and eggs incubate for 60 days
  • Most tropical out of all the sea turtles
  • Critically endangered
  • The greatest threat is human’s harvesting their shell (in some countries, it’s still used for jewellery and ornaments)
  • Approx. 20,000 – 23,000 nesting females

Kemp’s ridley

  • Most endangered of all the sea turtles
  • Major breeding site in a small strip of beach in Mexico
  • They mainly eat crabs, clams mussels and shrimp but also eat jellyfish, squid, fish and sea urchins
  • Like shallow areas with sandy and mud
  • Nest more often than other species
  • Lay around 110 eggs in each nest and incubate for 55 days
  • Adults are found in the Gulf of Mexico whilst youngsters are found in tropical and temperate coastal areas of the northwest Atlantic Ocean
  • Critically endangered
  • The biggest threat is human activities -> collection of eggs and killing them for meat
  • Shrimp trawlers were what caused a significant decline in numbers
  • Approx. 7,000 – 9,000 nesting females

Olive ridley

  • Nesting population has declined over 80% since 1967
  • Omnivore diet -> shrimps, crabs, molluscs and fish)
  • 110 eggs on average and require 52 – 58 days of incubation
  • Found in tropical and subtropical waters
  • Listed as vulnerable
  • Biggest threats are the harvest of adults and eggs, capture in commercial fisheries and loss of nesting habitats
  • Approx. 800,000 nesting females

Flatback

  • Only found in the waters of the north of Australia and the Gulf of Papua New Guinea
  • The smooth and waxy shell that can easily be damaged
  • Eats sea cucumbers, jellyfish, molluscs, prawns, invertebrates and seaweed
  • Lay around 50 eggs at a time and are incubated for 55 days
  • Listed as data deficient -> previously listed as vulnerable ( doesn’t mean that the numbers have gone up, it means that there isn’t a big enough amount of research)
  • Biggest threats are harvesting of eggs, beach destruction, ocean pollution, oil spills and getting caught in fishing/shrimp nets
  • Approx. 20,000 – 21,000 nesting females

Threats

  • Climate change -> the temperature of the water affects the outcome of the turtle’s sex, so warmer temps mean that more females with be born
  • Food source in some countries
  • During nesting season, hunters will comb the beaches for females nesting and wait for her to lay the eggs before taking the eggs and killing her 🙁
  • Their shells can be used for jewellery, fans etc.
  • Bycatch
  • Plastic pollution -> over 80% of our plastic originates on land
  • Discarded or lost fishing gear can entangle turtles and they can drown since they can’t move
  • Coastal defences disturb where turtles nest and reduce the amount of space
  • Dredging a beach incorrectly can cause negative impacts on sea turtles
  • Nesting females can become trapped in beach furniture e.g. chairs, umbrellas, boats etc.
  • Nighttime divers can crush hatchlings attempting to go into the water
  • Beach driving contributes to beach erosion, additionally, the surface won’t be smooth which means it will take longer for the hatchlings to get to the water
  • Oil spills will kill their food sources and them because the oil will disperse

Conservation efforts

  • Effective management plans in place
  • Communities in Mexico are hanging lights on fishing nets so that turtles avoid them
  • 50% reduction in turtles caught at night
  • In the USA all shrimpers are required to have TEDs in their trawl nets (Turtle Excluder Device where there is an opening and if they accidentally catch turtles/sharks, they can release them)
  • Volunteers do night patrols to locate the nests and relocate them to somewhere safe
  • Treating rescued turtles

There are lots of brands that sell sea turtle related items where the profits go towards conservation projects etc. Some examples:

4ocean sell bracelets where the money goes to a charity to whichever animal you chose AND they pick up a pound of rubbish! They also sell tops, water bottles, bags etc.

Honu have multiple sea turtle collections where 10% of the profits go towards sea turtles.

Best wishes, Cx

Information from:

The Sea Turtle Conservancy (won’t let me link it!)

https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/reptiles/meet-seven-sea-turtle-species

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/group/sea-turtles/

https://www.globalteer.org/helping-sea-turtle-conservation/

COVER PHOTO CREDIT = wwf_uk on instagram

7 thoughts on “World Sea Turtle Day”

  1. I love turtles! These are some amazing facts too! I’ve seen a few videos of baby sea turtles being released back into the sea and I’ve cried my eyes out before – I can’t imagine what it’d be like to see it in real life! xx

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