World Sea Turtle Day 2023

Evolved very little in 200 million years, the seven sea turtles species are struggling to survive. Credit: Nir Friedman

Guided by the Earth’s magnetic field, these ancient explorers navigate vast oceanic distances, and return to their birthplaces with astonishing precision. They spend their entire lives in seas where they breed, feed, and even sleep. Females are beaching only to lay eggs.

June 16 is World Sea Turtle Day: a special occasion that aims to raise awareness about the importance of protecting these magnificent creatures and their fragile marine habitats.

Graceful and beautiful, with their streamlined bodies and flippers adapted for swimming, the existing seven species of sea turtles (out of approx. 360 turtles and tortoises species in total) ancient creatures have been navigating the world’s oceans for 200 million years.

However, sea turtles face numerous threats that endanger their survival. One such threat is habitat loss and degradation caused by coastal development, pollution, and climate change. Destruction of nesting beaches and coral reefs disrupts their natural life cycles and nesting habits. Additionally, sea turtles often fall victim to entanglement in fishing gear, resulting in injuries or death.

The intake of plastic garbage that has been mistaken for food poses a serious threat to their health. Sea turtles are in significant danger from plastic pollution in the water because they confuse plastic trash for jellyfish or other prey, which can result in eating and internal damage or blockages.

Various measures can be taken to address these threats and protect sea turtles. Promoting responsible coastal development practices that preserve nesting habitats and implementing stricter regulations on fishing gear can help reduce accidental capture and entanglement. Education and outreach programs can raise awareness among local communities and tourists about the importance of conservation and responsible behavior when encountering sea turtles. 

A turtle meat farm?

One example of the urgent need for conservation action is the Cayman Turtle Farm, where approximately 9,500 endangered green sea turtles are farmed for meat. The conditions in which these turtles are kept are deeply concerning. Packed in filthy tanks, the turtles experience extreme stress, leading to aggression and injury. Disturbingly, tourists are encouraged to handle these stressed turtles, further compromising their well-being.

However, there is hope on the horizon. An ongoing campaign seeks to halt the meat production at the Cayman Turtle Farm and transform it into a turtle rehabilitation and release facility. This positive initiative aims to give these magnificent creatures a chance at a better life and contribute to the recovery of their populations.

baby sea turtle heading into the sunset

Sea turtle heading back to the water. Credit: Hodaya Hazan Goldburd

 

Speaking of populations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed six sea turtle species’ conservation statuses. The green sea turtle is listed as Endangered, highlighting the urgent need for its protection.

The olive ridley sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle are classified as Vulnerable, indicating they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. On the brink of extinction, the hawksbill sea turtle and Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the rarest sea turtle species and the only one that nests during the day, are classified as Critically Endangered.

Speaking of populations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed six sea turtle species’ conservation statuses. The green sea turtle is listed as Endangered, highlighting the urgent need for its protection. The olive ridley sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle are classified as Vulnerable, indicating they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

On the brink of extinction, the hawksbill sea turtle and Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the rarest sea turtle species and the only one that nests during the day, are classified as Critically Endangered. In addition, the flatback sea turtle, a rare species found only in the waters around Australia, is considered Data Deficient, highlighting the need for additional study and conservation efforts to determine its conservation status and protect its populations.

In addition, the flatback sea turtle, a rare species found only in the waters around Australia, is considered Data Deficient, highlighting the need for additional study and conservation efforts to determine its conservation status and protect its populations.

World Sea Turtle Day reminds us of our responsibility to protect and conserve these ancient mariners. By mitigating the threats they face, promoting sustainable practices, and supporting rehabilitation and release initiatives, we can contribute to preserving sea turtles and their precious habitats. Let us unite to ensure that these magnificent creatures continue to grace our oceans for generations to come.

This guest post was submitted by the BioDB team

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