Today, May 1st, marks the first day of sea turtle nesting season in Florida. Sea turtles are such majestic creatures, reptiles who can trace their lineage back to prehistoric times. They have survived the test of time, but today, all seven species of sea turtles are endangered. Three of these species- the hawksbill, the kemp’s ridley (the tiniest and rarest sea turtle), and the leatherback ( at up to 1500 pounds, the world’s largest and fastest sea turtle) -are critically endangered. Critically endangered species are those whose numbers have or will decrease by 80% in three generations.
With five of the seven species of endangered sea turtles nesting on its beaches and over 90% of sea turtle activity in the United States occurring there, Floridians and the state’s cherished tourists have a great responsibility to preserve the habitat for these amazing animals.
Sea turtles have always faced many threats, but only recently have they faced the risk of survival from their biggest predator, humans. Both direct and indirect human contact has reduced the number of sea turtles today to all time lows.
From fishing lines to six-pack rings, to plastic bags, turtles are caught by and ingest large quantities of plastic each year. It is impossible to eliminate this scourge from the sea. One small counter measure is to reduce the use of plastic. In my last post, I talked about some cities that are working to ban plastic bags. These bags blanket the beach and the ocean. To our sea turtle friends, especially the leatherback, who eats a diet almost exclusively of jelly fish, these bags look like dinner. Make every visit to the beach a beach clean up.
Other dangers sea turtles face are boat propellers, commercial fishing practices-like shrimp trawlers, long line fishing, and large net fishing-, and run-off from pesticides and human-made chemicals coming from the land.
Last fall, I wrote a post on how turtle hatchlings, looking for the brightest star on the horizon to orient themselves to return to sea, become disoriented from the bright night lights of beach establishments and go the wrong way. This often results in their death either from being run over by a car or dehydration. Volunteers tirelessly work every night of sea turtle season, watching turtle nests for hatchlings and when they go the wrong way, they try to catch them.
In 2011, Fort Lauderdale volunteers saved almost 14,000 baby sea turtles heading toward the bright lights of A1A. That might seem like a lot, but with only enough volunteers to monitor 33% of nests (clutches) and up to 100 hatchlings in a clutch, these numbers only reflect a small portion of disoriented hatchlings.
So, let’s honor the sea turtle by doing our part whether we live near the ocean or not.
-Reduce plastic use.
-Bring a bag to the beach for clean up whenever you go for pleasure. (Don’t expect someone else to do it. That’s how we got to where we are right now.)
-Be a responsible boater.
-Only eat fish that has been sustainably caught.
-Make sure your city enforces their turtle friendly lighting ordinance if you live in Fort Lauderdale or another coastal Florida city.
Sea Turtle Resources:
Turtle Hospital- Marathon, FL: http://www.turtlehospital.org/
Sea Turtle Oversight Protection: http://seaturtleop.org/broward/
Global Sea Turtle Network: http://www.seaturtle.org/
Sea Turtle Conservancy: http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php
Read this Book:
You can only conserve what you love and after you read this book, by James Spotila, you will love sea turtles.♥