Blog Tags: Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Today’s trivia post is about an animal we talk about a lot: the loggerhead sea turtle.
Loggerheads are named for their broad heads and strong jaws, which they use to force open even large hard shellfish like conchs and giant clams. Loggerheads are found throughout tropical and warm temperate waters, and are the most common sea turtle in the Mediterranean. Loggerheads have a redder hue than most sea turtles, and they are often coated in barnacles and algae.
Because they drink salty sea water, they have developed glands near their eyes that can get rid of this salt, which makes females onshore to nest look like they’re crying. Scientists theorize that adult loggerheads use the Earth’s magnetism to navigate – how cool is that?
Loggerheads, which are considered endangered, are frequently caught accidentally by the fishing industry; other threats include beach erosion and development, pesticides, and oil spills. Oceana’s sea turtle campaign focuses on preventing sea turtle bycatch, protecting habitat, and promoting legislation that keeps turtles safe.
You can learn more about loggerhead sea turtles from Oceana’s marine wildlife encyclopedia.
Last week the U.S. government issued bittersweet news for loggerhead sea turtles.
First, the good news: After almost four years of debate, the government decided to upgrade Pacific loggerhead sea turtles to “endangered” from “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The bad news is that Atlantic loggerhead turtles will still be considered “threatened,” despite the recommendations of the government’s own scientists.
Loggerheads have declined by at least 80 percent in the North Pacific and could become functionally or ecologically extinct by the mid-21st century if additional protections are not put into place. Meanwhile, Florida beaches, which host the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the Northwest Atlantic, have seen more than a 25 percent decline in nesting since 1998.
In 2009, a team of government scientists published a report that classified both populations of loggerhead turtles as “currently at risk of extinction.” In other words, the government dismissed its own scientists’ conclusions about Northwest Atlantic loggerheads.
The government’s review of loggerhead status was prompted in 2007 by petitions from Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which asked the government to enforce stronger protections for loggerheads and their habitats.
Unfortunately, the government has also postponed measures that would establish critical loggerhead habitats, an important step in achieving improved protections for key nesting beaches and migratory and feeding areas in the ocean.
We’re making progress, but as you can see, there’s still a long way to go. We’ll continue working to protect sea turtles – and you can help. Tell your representative to save sea turtles from extinction.
Sea turtles have had a rough year. In 2010, more than 600 sea turtles were found either dead or injured on Gulf of Mexico shores, and 563 have already washed up just halfway into 2011.
This sudden spike in sea turtle mortality is due in part to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf in April, but Oceana has recently discovered that someone else may be to blame: the Gulf shrimp fishery.
Oceana recently found that the fishery is not currently required to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), which spare most sea turtles from getting caught and drowning in their skimmer trawls used for catching shrimp. This lack of proper regulation, coupled with the fishery’s noncompliance or ignorance of TED requirements for other types of trawls, has led to the enormous number of recent sea turtle deaths.
What you might not know is that under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorizes fisheries to injure or kill a specific number of sea turtles. More than 98 percent of all sea turtle interactions authorized to U.S. fisheries are given to the shrimp fishery.
The new issue of the Oceana Magazine has arrived!
This issue features news from the Gulf, including an in-depth look at the dangers of offshore drilling. The magazine also explores offshore wind as a source of clean, safe, sustainable energy.
Also included: updated news on the status of loggerhead sea turtles, and the latest happenings in our newest office in Belize, plus a profile of "Top Chef" finalist Bryan Voltaggio. Chef Voltaggio even gave us the recipe for one of his favorite sustainable fish dinners so you can make it at home!
Check out the magazine for more Oceana goodies.
We're celebrating a big win yesterday for loggerhead sea turtles.
In response to two petitions submitted in 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, yesterday the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to change the status of North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
The government also proposed listing loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.
The change in listing status means the populations are in danger of extinction and will trigger a legal requirement for proposed critical habitat, an important step in achieving improved protections for key nesting beaches and migratory and feeding habitat in the ocean.
Editor's note: This is the last in a series of six blog posts from Emily and Kerri Lynn's trip to North Carolina to watch loggerhead sea turtles nesting. The most recent post was about a full loggerhead nesting.
After witnessing our first full loggerhead nesting, we woke up early, drank some much-needed coffee, then drove over to Jean Beasley’s Sea Turtle Hospital on Topsail Island, NC. After visting last year, I was curious to see how things had changed.
When we arrived, Jean and her team of interns were saying a tearful goodbye to a loggerhead sea turtle, Coastie, who died that morning after getting surgery at NC State in Raleigh.
“We can’t save them all, but we do the best we can,” Beasley told the group of solemn students ranging from middle-school to college age.
Currently housing 22 sea turtles, the hospital is getting too big for its britches. Everywhere you look, including the bathroom, are pools with sea turtles in them. A new, much bigger facility is in the works, but Beasley said she’s far from having the funding needed to complete the project.
As promised, I have more to report on our expedition to Bald Head Island, NC. After 3 nights on the island, Kerri Lynn and I had seen a female loggerhead's false crawl and the end of a female nesting.
With only one night remaining, we were really hoping to see the whole nesting process. We got our chance on the fourth night at 2 a.m. When we got to the beach it was starting to rain, and there was no moon in sight.
The interns told us that they had seen five sets of tracks -- all false crawls -- two of which they think were this female, since the tracks appeared similar. The turtle was at work digging her egg chamber, but we stayed at a distance to make sure we didn’t scare her off.
We stayed quiet and still, waiting for her to go into the nesting “trance” to get closer. We all turned our flashlights off, and as our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we could see glints of bioluminescent algae on her shell.
As soon as she started dropping eggs into the chamber, the interns gave us the go-ahead to get closer. They got busy measuring her shell and checking her for tagging IDs while we watched the eggs drop into the sandy pit she’d neatly dug. There was a noticeable chunk taken out of the back of her shell. The interns guessed that a predator had taken a bite when she was a juvenile.
Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of posts from Emily and Kerri Lynn's trip to North Carolina to watch loggerhead sea turtles nesting this week.
You may have noticed the lack of update yesterday – we were on the beach during the wee hours of Thursday morning watching another nesting mother (!), and then we drove over to the Topsail Island Sea Turtle Hospital for most of the day, so stay tuned for full posts (and photos) on those events next week.
But for today, I wanted to return to a recurring theme in this week’s adventure: beach erosion. When I came down to Bald Head last September to see loggerhead hatchlings, I didn’t hear a word about beach erosion. That’s not to say it wasn’t happening, but this time, it’s on everybody’s lips.
Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts chronicling Emily and Kerri Lynn's trip to North Carolina to find nesting loggerhead sea turtles. Read yesterday's update and stay tuned for more.
I could leave you in suspense about what happened last night, but I won’t because it’s too exciting. We saw a female loggerhead last night – the same one twice, in fact.
As usual we got to the beach around 10. We didn’t ride in the utility vehicles this time because the night before (a few hours after we left), Lola’s axle broke.
So we chatted with Brett, the BHIC’s sea turtle biologist, who showed us how to make the sand light up. Bald Head’s beach is bioluminescent at night, so when you take a step, your footprint is illuminated like the night sky for a few seconds. It kept the kids – and us – very entertained.
At 11 we saw a bright red headlamp light flickering 100 yards or so down the beach. Brett radioed the interns. No answer. The bouncing red light got closer, and turtle intern Anna came into view.
“Turtle!” she said. “But I think it’s gonna be a false crawl.” We dashed down the beach. We stopped when we spotted the dark oval on the side of the dune. She was, incredibly, climbing up a fairly steep dune. “She’s looking for dry sand,” said an intern.
Editor's note: This is the second of a series of posts about Emily and Kerri Lynn's week-long trip to North Carolina in hopes of witnessing loggerhead sea turtles nesting. Check out last year's trip to see sea turtles hatching. Stay tuned for more updates this week.
Last night I learned what it’s like to be an all-night sea turtle patroller. Okay, so I only did it for a little more than an hour, but I think I got the idea.
Kerri Lynn and I joined the BHI turtle interns on their patrol rounds on the beach, which start at 9 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. The patrols are crucial to the on-the-beach conservation process. The interns tag the females, take measurements, and mark the location of the nests to build protective cages over them to keep out foxes and other predators.
Plus, they relocate a nest if it is laid on a vulnerable section of beach. So far this year, they’ve had to relocate a whopping nine of the twelve nests mainly due to beach erosion.
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