Racing Time to Save Turtles

Photo: Kaitlyn McQueeney
Green sea turtle. Oahu, Hawai

 Hot sun, clear water, white sand ~ we all enjoy the spoils of the beach, but we are not the only ones who share the shoreline. 

Sea turtles are a favorite among divers, beachgoers, and wildlife advocates.  Peaceful and harmless, seeing a sea turtle is always a special moment. We all want the next generations to have the opportunity to see these beautiful animals. 

There are seven species of sea turtles ~ loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, green, flatback, Kemp’s Ridley, and Olive Ridley.  What do all seven have in common? They are all endangered and at risk of extinction.

 Photo: Kaitlyn McQueeney
Green sea turtle. Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Only 0.1% - 1% of hatchlings survive to adulthood.  There is no parental care in sea turtles, so juveniles must face their new world while independently searching for food.  They also face predation from birds on the beach during their first minutes of life as they make their way to the ocean. Sea turtle populations are already fighting against the unforgiving laws of nature, and anthropogenic factors are only worsening their chances of survival. 

The primary diet of a sea turtle consists of jellyfish.  Plastic bags from the grocery store have a close resemblance to jellies; this often leads to the turtle’s ingestion of plastic, which can have fatal consequences.  Boat propeller strikes trampled nests, and the illegal killing of sea turtles to make jewelry from their painted shells are all examples of human threats that have led to the decline in their populations.

Photo: Kaitlyn McQueeney
Freediver and wildlife photographer Nico Ientile finds a piece of plastic while diving with a local sea turtle.

Fortunately, there are organizations that are working tirelessly to help sea turtle populations make a comeback. 

In Juno Beach, Florida, the Loggerhead Marine Life Center rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles, nursing them back to health after being injured from boat strikes or found entangled in discarded nets and plastic.  Scientists monitor beaches along the coast during nesting season and rope off the area for protection. Some restaurants will even trade your plastic straw for an eco-friendly paper straw, making an effort to reduce the number of straws and other single-use plastics that litter the beach and harm the local wildlife. 

Every single person can make a difference.  Educate others about the threats sea turtles face.  Refuse single-use plastics. Recycle. Support wildlife nonprofits like Loggerhead Marine Life Center.  Pick up trash on the beach. Participate in underwater cleanups. If you see an animal that needs assistance, notify your local wildlife officials.

Encourage others to support eco-friendly initiatives like Mona, whose products are made from discarded plastic and nets collected from the sea.  

If we want a future with these beautiful animals, we must fight to protect them. We must speak for those without a voice.  

 

Written by Kaitlyn McQueeney
@sharkdiver_kaitlyn



 

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