Save The Sea Turtles
The majestic sea turtle has roamed the seas for more than 150 million years. Plastic pollution in the oceans is destroying their habitat and affecting them throughout their lifecycle. After birth, they can face injury from ingestion or entanglement.

Research suggests that more than half of all the sea turtles on the planet have ingested plastic. It is estimated that the plastic they encounter has a 20% chance of killing them.

Each year, the world's oceans receive an estimated eight million tons of plastic, that's approximately 26,600 Boeing 747 planes.

Why Are Sea Turtles Important?

Scientists report that sea turtle species are essential to the health of marine ecosystems. One example is the endangered Hawksbill turtle that protects coral reefs by grazing on sponges that would outgrow the corals. If sponges were not consumed by turtles, they would overpower the corals and kill the reef.

Another example is how the endangered green turtles graze on seagrass beds. This promotes faster and healthier growth of the seabeds, which serve as homes, feeding grounds, and nurseries to various species of marine animals.

The final example is the Leatherback turtle and its main food source, jellyfish. Turtles regulate the jellyfish population for the fish population to be in balance as jellyfish eat fish eggs. The population of fish is already at a critical point from heavy fishing and pollution.

According to scientific studies, our oceans produce over 50% of the planet's oxygen. Keeping our oceans healthy involves keeping a healthy population of sea turtles.

Why Does Plastic Kill Sea Turtles?

Plastic pollution affects turtles every day either on land or in the ocean. The main incidents involve getting tangled in plastic or ingesting it.

There are other threats plastic poses throughout a turtle's life:
  • Laying eggs has become a major problem for sea turtles. Because of the accumulated debris on nesting beaches, sea turtles have a hard time digging through the garbage until they finally give up.

  • Finding the ocean after hatching is another consideration for newborn turtles. Sometimes they can't find the ocean because of garbage in the way or getting tangled and dying on the beach.

  • Eating plastic is a major concern for turtles. This is especially harmful to baby turtles that are unaware of the danger of ingesting plastic as older turtles may. It leads to intestinal blockage and injury to internal organs. This produces malnutrition, reduced growth rate, and eventually death.
Some of the worst plastic items that cause harm to sea turtles include plastic bags, straws. Plastic bags can look like jellyfish in the water, which is one of the staple foods of some species of turtles.

Where Are Turtles in Danger?

The sea turtle crisis is happening all over the globe. In the United States, all sea turtles are on the endangered species list. Kemp's Ridley is the most endangered of all sea turtles. The Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Kemp's Ridley are all present on the coasts of the United States including Pacific, Atlantic, and Hawaiian.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly which region of the United States has the most urgency, however, worldwide numbers estimate that there are approximately 6.5 million sea turtles left in the wild, each species with unique numbers. For instance, the endangered Hawksbill turtle is estimated to only have an estimated 57,000 individuals left on the planet.

Organizations That Help Sea Turtles

There are dozens of wildlife conservation projects in the effort to stabilize the population of sea turtles around the globe. Many people are working together and forming coalitions of conservation organizations.

These are some of the global organizations making progress for sea turtles:
  • Sea Turtle Conservancy
  • Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative
  • Wildlife Trafficking Alliance
  • The Ocean Foundation
  • WildAid
  • Turtle Island Restoration Network
  • Global Vision International
  • Oceanic Society
  • Action Campaign for Endangered Species (in German)
  • Humane Society International

What Can I Do to Help?

There are many ways one individual can make a difference. Here are some easy steps you can take to help the sea turtle population:

  • Reduce the use of marine debris that can get entangled or digested by a sea turtle. Don't bring items to the beach that can easily be left behind. Try to use only reusable containers made from materials other than plastic.

  • Get involved in coastal clean-ups and reduce use of plastic by choosing your products carefully. Try to buy in bulk and stay away from individually wrapped items. Contact your local conservation organization to find out what local events are happening in your area.

  • Use reusable water bottles and shopping bags instead of disposable items. Do as much as you can on your own and choose restaurants and shops that have sustainable practices as well.

  • Avoid balloons, turtles can accidentally consume them and they can be lethal. Along with balloons and plastic bags, avoid anything that resembles these items and has the same possibility of harming turtles.

  • Turn off the lights at nesting beaches during certain seasons. Some cities post signs educating the public about turtle nesting season and the precautions we must take.

  • Do not disturb turtles, eggs, or new hatchlings. They are greatly affected by people handling them or taking photos of them with a flash. As much as you want to see these beauties up-close, it is better to give them plenty of space and privacy.

  • Remove beach equipment such as chairs, umbrellas, and other items that can interfere with the nesting and hatching activities of turtles.

  • Keep the sand pristine by knocking down sandcastles and filling in holes. Leave the sand as natural as possible free from traces that you've been there.

You can also get involved by organizing ocean clean-ups and other events such as one in Belize At Hunting Caye beach, where conservation volunteers removed garbage that was deeply ingrained in the sand. It resulted in improved nesting conditions that lead to two documented turtle nests and 11 crawls.

People also help turtles by helping to rehabilitate injured turtles. Many of them get tangled or ingest plastic, receive treatment, and are released again to the wild.

There are educational and promotional efforts in which you can get involved. Even starting an online fundraiser is a step towards the well-being of sea turtles and our planet.

Governmental Efforts

As citizens, we can influence governments to take certain actions that will benefit the conservation of sea turtles. One of the most important laws in the United States is the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973. The law is designed to protect threatened and endangered species and their critical habitats.

It is important to promote the enactment of laws that protect sea turtles from ending up as souvenirs and other types of products. Research data that inform us about the impact and the progress of sea turtle conservation efforts are made publicly available and used by conservationists, academics, researchers, funding agencies, and government officials.

One way municipalities can help improve the conditions of marine life is by planting mangrove forests that serve as habitats for many types of wildlife. In addition, laws can be in place to protect turtle nesting beaches from the damages that coastal erosion can cause. There are efforts from conservation projects underway in Thailand, Fiji, Belize, and Mexico to create lush habitats for turtles and ensure that citizens follow conservation laws.

Other solutions include creating community events geared towards the education, fundraising, and promotion of turtle conservation efforts.

Final Thoughts

Sea turtles still have the possibility to thrive and get off the endangered species list. It is up to us to take the necessary steps to help save them. The new habits we implement will not only benefit the sea turtles but will also have a positive impact on other endangered animals such as honey bees.

It is only inevitable that we continue to do a major overhaul of all the things we've been practicing that affect our planet and the animal kingdom. We are seeing a lot of improvements in not only the way we consume but also in the way we interact with wildlife.

With steady enthusiasm and education about nature, we shall keep continuing to make progress and see positive results with various types of species. Every little step counts, which means you have the power to have a positive impact on the well-being of sea turtles.

Next time you order a plastic straw, use a plastic bag or enjoy the beach, you'll be aware of how your actions impact marine wildlife. We are successfully coming together to conserve our natural world, and the momentum is only becoming stronger. With steady efforts, we shall continue to see our natural world transform for the better.
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