Odds are if you are an ocean enthusiast like us here at Panamuna, you are also a massive turtle lover like us too! But how much do you know about our turtlely friends? Can you list all the species or know which ones are endangered?
To celebrate World Turtle Day (and to increase your turtle knowledge), we have put together 5 of our favourite facts about sea turtles:
- Sea turtles (sometimes known as marine turtles) are marine reptiles that have lived in the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years, filling a vital role in the balance of marine habitats.
- There are seven different species of sea turtles that grace our oceans, from the shallow seagrass beds of the Indian Ocean to the colourful reefs of the Coral Triangle and the sandy beaches of the Eastern Pacific. The seven different species are:
- Green sea turtle
- Leatherback turtle
- Loggerhead turtle
- Hawksbill turtle
- Olive Ridley sea turtle
- Flatback sea turtle
- Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle
- As turtle hatchlings have many natural predators, it is estimated that only one out of 1,000 hatchlings survive to be an adult, but as the female will lay thousands of eggs over her lifetime this allows the survival of the species.
- Like other reptiles, the gender of the sea turtle depends on the temperature in the nest, this is called temperature-dependent sex determination. Researchers have noted that the warmer the sand, the higher the ratio of female turtles.
- While technically not one of our favourite facts, but probably the most important is that over the past 200 years, human activities have tipped the scales against the survival of these beautiful marine creatures. Unfortunately, all seven species are considered threatened or endangered, with two (Hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley) considered critically endangered.
So how can we help?
Since human activities are the main cause of sea turtle decline, we should all take responsibility to help them by following these ‘turtle-saving’ rules:
- Avoid using plastic
While we usually say avoid single-use plastic, in order help marine life such as sea turtles we really need to avoid using as much plastic as possible. Not only can plastic entangle sea turtles, they can also ingest plastic by mistake causing damage internally. So next time you go to buy something in plastic, try and find an alternative...for the turtles.
- Decrease your carbon footprint
You may be aware that global rising temperatures are causing coral reefs to die due to bleaching, but you may not be aware of the serious effect this warming can have on sea turtles. Not only do sea turtles depend on these coral reefs to live, sea turtles are also subject to temperature-dependent sex determination. This means if temperatures continue to go up, a higher ratio of female hatchlings will be born than males, decreasing mating opportunities.
- Look, but don’t touch
If you are lucky to see a sea turtle while out exploring the ocean, make sure you only look and don't touch and harass the turtle. We need to make sure we are respectful of our marine friends, and while some might let you get nice and close, some might not like it and harassing the animal might cause it a lot of stress. Remember, no photo is worth harming an animal.
- Say “No” to commercially bought seafood
Did you know that one of the biggest causes of ocean plastic comes from the commercial fishing industry? Discarded fishing nets are very dangerous to sea turtles as they can entangle in them, causing severe injuries and can even cause them to die. In order to stop this, we must stop our consumption of commercially caught seafood.
- Support turtle rehabilitation programs
Sea turtle rehabilitation organisations are doing amazing work rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing back into the wild (when possible) sea turtles. Often run by very small organisations, they need all the help and support they can get with volunteers and donations to keep them saving turtles.
Do you know any other ways to help sea turtles?