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Oceana Newsletter Fall 2009: CEO's Note – Sea turtles swam with the dinosaurs. Now they’re threatened with extinction.

Loggerhead sea turtles regularly cross oceans, but nine in ten females lay their eggs in just two places: the beaches of Florida and the Middle Eastern country of Oman. We know very little about the Oman population, but in the United States, loggerheads are in a well-studied decline. In the last decade, loggerhead nesting numbers have fallen by more than 40 percent.

All species of sea turtles around the world face a slew of challenges that have caused a global decline. Every year, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles are caught in fishing gear. Nesting beaches are under constant pressure from coastal development and rising waters due to climate change.

The six sea turtle species found in U.S. waters – loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, olive ridley, green and hawksbill – are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species act. This means that they may go extinct in the foreseeable future.

Witnessing a mother sea turtle lumbering onto a beach to lay a clutch of dozens of eggs is one of nature’s most easily accessed spectacles. It takes place on beaches around the world. As you’ll read later in these pages, local conservation groups work hard to ensure that as many hatchlings as possible survive the journey from the nest to the ocean. Scientists estimate that as few as one in a thousand sea turtle hatchlings may survive to maturity.

Once those hatchlings complete the journey to the ocean, more challenges face them in the water. Even with the
protections afforded turtles by the Endangered Species Act, fishing gear like longlines, trawls, gill nets and dredges kills thousands of turtles and injures even more every year. In addition, pollution, coastal development, poaching, vessel strikes and ingestion of plastics and other debris threaten to push sea turtles closer to extinction.

Oceana is working on numerous fronts to ensure a safe ocean for turtles. First, we are pushing hard for the U.S. to pass its first comprehensive sea turtle legislation. The legislation will protect sea turtle populations, reduce sea turtle bycatch and set aside protected areas for the turtles.

We’re also gathering celebrity support. After the success of our “Scared for Sharks” campaign featuring “Mad Men” actress January Jones, I’m pleased to announce that actress Kate Walsh has joined our sea turtle campaign. You may know Kate from her performance on “Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” but I hope you’ll now recognize her as the face of Oceana’s Save Sea Turtles campaign. In addition, an 11-year-old girl named Casey with a remarkable dedication to turtles has joined us. In the following pages, you’ll learn more details in a special sea turtles edition of the magazine.

For decades, sea turtle conservation has focused on promoting gear modifications in key fisheries and protecting sea turtle nesting habitats. These efforts have met with success, and some sea turtle populations appear to be in the beginning stages of recovery. For other turtles around the world, however, more aggressive
protections are urgently needed. Our scientists, celebrities and grassroots supporters are on the case.

 

For the Oceans,


Oceana is grateful for the grants, contributions, and other support it has received from dozens of foundations and companies and thousands of individuals. Oceana wishes to thank its founding funders as well as foundations that in 2008 awarded Oceana grants of $1 million or more: Arcadia Fund, Oak Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Sandler Foundation. For more information, please see Oceana’s annual reports at http://na.oceana.org.