Happy World Turtle Day! While World Turtle Day celebrates turtles that roam both the land and the sea, as well as tortoises, we at Oceana would especially like to recognize the magnificent species of sea turtles that roam throughout the world’s oceans. The seven species classified as sea turtles around the world are truly incredible: most undergo incredible long migrations – some as far as 1,400 miles –between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they nest. Some loggerhead sea turtles nest in Japan and migrate to Baja del Sur, Mexico, to forage before swimming across the Pacific Ocean again to return home! Amazingly, female sea turtles even return to the exact beach where they hatched as babies to nest and lay their eggs.
Sea turtles have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years, surviving natural predators, climatic events, and even the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, sea turtles are now facing a threat that even these resilient creatures cannot beat – humans.
Fshing activities have become one of the greatest sources of mortality to sea turtles worldwide, and especially in the United States: each of the six sea turtle species found in U.S. waters is listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Even with protections under the Endangered Species Act, the government estimates that as many as 50,000 sea turtles die each year due to fishing gear such as longlines, trawls, gillnets, and dredges. Innovative ways of modifying fishing gear to prevent this continued harm already exist, but the government is slow to implement these important changes.
Sea turtles are also killed and injured by the trash and garbage that litters our oceans. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags, get tangled in derelict fishing gear or packing straps, and can become sick from toxic chemicals that enter from rivers and streams. On land, some beaches might be so polluted or highly developed that the sea turtles cannot return to nest successfully. Climate change is also putting sea turtles at increasingly higher risks of becoming extinct. Rising sea levels erode important nesting areas and rising beach sand temperatures skew the number of female and male hatchlings that are born.
The good news? We can stop all this, and restore sea turtle populations to healthy levels. Oceana works throughout the world to save sea turtles, and we are dedicated to the protection and restoration of sea turtle populations throughout the world’s oceans. Our campaigns work to reduce sea turtle injury and mortality in fishing gear and to protect sea turtle habitat. Join Oceana and consider making a donation so that we can continue our efforts to protect sea turtles. Let’s ensure that we will be celebrating these gorgeous, incredible creatures on World Turtle Days for generations to come.