We Still Have So Much to Learn
Star Trek told us that space was the final frontier, but we still have plenty to explore in the deep, blue waters of our own planet. Some truly magnificent things live in the depths of our oceans and they need our attention. One such creature is the sea turtle. There are actually seven different sea turtle species, six of which are considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered across the globe. These majestic animals have been part of this world for at least 110,000 million years. That means sea turtles were here even before the dinosaurs.
So far, 2016 has been a record year for sea turtle nests on many US beaches, especially in Florida and South Carolina. As a result, many are hopeful that conservation efforts are giving these amazing creatures a fighting chance. But sea turtles aren’t out of the dark yet; there’s still much that needs to be done to ensure their futures and it begins with education. Here are some facts that will help you make a difference.
Why Is Sea Turtle Conservation Important?
Sea turtles play a very important role in ocean ecosystems, as well as along coastlines. They keep the seagrass on the ocean floors growing and healthy and provide vital nutrients to the vegetation on beach sand dunes. They also play an important role in coral reef ecosystems and preventing the overpopulation of jellyfish. The extinction of sea turtles could have devastating effects not only on saltwater habitats, but also on other ocean species.
What Are Common Threats to Sea Turtles?
Unfortunately, sea turtles face many, many threats, all of which humans are responsible for. One of the major threats is poor fishing practices. Thousands of sea turtles are accidentally caught in fishing gear every year and, while the United States has regulated special netting be used to allow larger animals to escape, these deaths will continue to occur around the world. Trash consumption and pollution are also a big problem, causing great harm to both the ocean ecosystem and poisoning many ocean creatures, including sea turtles.
The list goes on. Sea turtles also face the destruction of their nesting grounds due to coastline development, beach erosion (caused by over-development), and inconsiderate vacation practices. Poachers are also a threat. Many countries have outlawed the pouching of sea turtles, but the laws aren’t enforced strictly enough in some communities.
How Can You Help?
While the sea turtle’s situation is definitely dire, it is not hopeless. There are actually a number of things that you can do to help prevent the extinction of these amazing animals. Here are some tips that will help you save countless sea turtle lives in the future.
- Most beaches have volunteer conservancy programs for sea turtles. Find out more about these programs at the beaches you visit and consider volunteering your time to them.
- When vacationing at the beach, keep a lookout for injured or stranded sea turtles. Have the local conservancy’s phone number accessible or call the authorities for help. You should also report any maltreatment of sea turtles and, or their nests.
- If you visit or live by the coast, make sure to turn off the lights or close the blinds facing the ocean. When baby sea turtles hatch, they use the moon to guide them to the water. Unfortunately, some baby turtles get confused by house lights and go the wrong way.
- Walking along the beach at night can be fun and relaxing but, again, the lights can be disorienting for hatching turtles. Instead, use flashlights and headlamps with red light settings or place a thin red cloth over a regular flashlight.
- Do not disturb mother turtles coming onto the beach or baby turtles making their way to the ocean. While seeing these things is obviously exciting, flash photography and loud noises can be scary or disorienting.
- Do not leave your beach things on or around sand dunes. Also fill in any holes you dig or find in the sand. If mother turtles run into these things, they will not lay their eggs.
- Pick up any trash along the coast. Plastic is especially dangerous to all ocean wildlife.
- And of course, you’re always welcome to volunteer on GLA’s new Spring Break or Summer sea turtle conservation programs!
Contributed by Amanda Vosloh Bowyer