How to Save Sea Turtles

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Hawksill sea turtle swimmingHave you ever asked your seafood waiter for turtle-safe shrimp? If not, now may be a good time to start. Why? Fishing nets used all around the world ensnare and kill sea turtles. Many U.S.-based ships use turtle escape hatches, a type of Turtle Excluder Device, which give the turtles an escape path. However, most foreign-based ships don’t. The result? 150,000 endangered sea turtles are at risk of being killed each year. How to save sea turtles?

Turtle-Excluder Devices

Until 1988 we were able to save the sea turtles by the use of turtle escape hatches, which United States law required, allowing 97% of sea turtles to escape fishing nets unharmed. But recently the WTO (World Trade Organization) has been hampering such efforts, being pressured by foreign business interests. So, once again, sea turtles are in danger of getting killed off, and eventually going extinct.

History of the Sea Turtle

You think dinosaurs lived a long time? Not as long as sea turtles! Sea turtles have been around for over 100 million years, predating the last era of the dinosaurs. And while they are much smaller than some of the larger dinosaurs, there is one rare species, the leatherback, that weighs as much as a small car! Sea turtles have remained largely unchanged over the years. They are gentle creatures that have a longer life span than humans, but are not nearly as reproductive. They are migratory animals that will swim thousands of miles in their lifetime. However, they are also air-breathing reptiles and lay their eggs on land. Unfortunately, almost all their infants die, so each and every egg is key to the species’ survival.

Sea Turtles fight to survive the age of man

Baby sea turtleThese creatures have been around since before the dinosaurs; but sadly, they may not survive the age of man. Every species of sea turtle is now threatened or endangered by predators, trash, and poachers. But the biggest killer of sea turtles? Shrimp nets. That’s why it’s essential that next time you order shrimp, you ask for turtle-safe shrimp. All it takes is one question. If enough people ask this question, it will raise awareness once again. You may ask, where can I find turtle-safe shrimp that will save the sea turtles?

Earth Island Certified Turtle-Safe Shrimp

Since 1998 over 3 million pounds of Certified Turtle-Safe Shrimp, caught by fishing gear that utilizes Turtle-Excluder Devices, is available to the public. Over 125 shrimping boats use these devices, and as a result the numbers of sea turtles being saved is once again slowly on the rise. But with the pressure of the WTO and its enforcement of what it considers to be illegal barriers to trade, it won’t stay this way unless consumers continue to act and request turtle safe shrimp. So how can you help save the sea turtles? When you buy shrimp, make sure you request shrimp from the following distributors:

  • Skipper Seafood
  • Walter’s Caviar
  • Monterey Seafood
  • Osprey Seafood

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The Loggerhead sea turtle is known by the scientific name Caretta, and is known for being the world’s largest hard shelled turtle. This beautiful and unique species has a considerably long lifespan and is an endangered species as a result of depopulation and a variety of other factors. The Loggerhead sea turtle is known for spending most of its time swimming in the open ocean or coasting on shallow coastal waters, and can be found within the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean sea.

Majestic Ocean Creature

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is one of the oceans’ most majestic creatures and without the rescue efforts of conservation societies this incredible beast may not be capable of surviving much longer. To lose the Loggerhead Sea Turtle from the world’s oceans would not only be a disaster in terms of losing such a beautiful creature but it would also severely affect the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem.

Without the Loggerhead Sea Turtle to feed on them, certain bottom dwellers populations would explode and consequently they would contribute to the imbalance of the oceans’ life forms. To lose just one species such as the Loggerhead Sea Turtle could trigger a domino effect that could cause untold devastation on the world’s oceanic wildlife. Stay tuned for a longer article with updates on the Loggerhead Sea Turtle.

Until then, thank you for being a friend of the Earth!

Alex loves nature and does his best to take care of the planet. He doesn't take for granted the serenity that can be found in the stillness of an ancient forest, or the majestic power of the ocean's large waves as they crash on an isolated island shoreline. He wants to raise awareness for how simple it can be to make a couple changes in your everyday life that can make a huge difference for the environment in the long term.

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15 Comments on "How to Save Sea Turtles"

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Anonymous
Anonymous

Many people are aware that the sea turtles are rapidly becoming an endangered species. There are several reasons for this. This includes simple things that you might not even consider a threat. Almost none of the eggs laid by a female sea turtle will actually survive to adulthood. For example, even something as seemingly innocent as bright lights on the beach can be a problem. When a baby turtle hatches, their main goal is to make it to the sea. However, if there are many onlookers using bright lights, this can be disorienting to the babies. Many are not able to make it to the ocean before they are eaten by a predator or stepped on by an unsuspecting passer by.

There are other problems as well. Shrimping boats uses large nets which also trap sea turtles. This is a huge problem, and it is completely preventable. There are devices known as turtle excluders which can be put into these nets. However, it seems that many shrimpers do not want to do this. The best way we can help is by requesting certified turtle safe shrimp.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I have always had great admiration for the sea turtles. These creatures are really amazing, and I always enjoyed watching and learning about them on the Discovery channel, just like everyone else. However, I was not aware of many things about them. This article has actually opened my eyes to just how extraordinary they can be.

The author points out that these animals are very ancient. They have been around for over 100 million years. This even pre dates the last era of dinosaurs. I am not sure that it is even possible to really get a good grip on just how long 100 million years actually is. After all, that is 1 million centuries! To just imagine all of the changes that these creatures have witnessed as a species?

There are also many other fascinating things about these animals. They have remained largely unchanged over all of this time. It would certainly be a shame to see them die out due to human interference. They are now threatened by predators, trash, poachers and even shrimp nets. This article points out several brands of shrimp which are committed to using turtle excluder devices.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Maybe I am just unaware, or do not pay attention to news, but it certainly came as a surprise to me that sea turtles are becoming an endangered species. This article really made that abundantly clear. These animals are some of the most majestic in the ocean and they have a really long lifespan. In fact, some types of sea turtles can live longer than people. The author uses the Loggerhead sea turtle as an example. This species is the largest hard shelled turtle in the world. However, it has become endangered due to depopulation and a number of other factors. According to the author it is found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans (as well as the Mediterranean Sea).

What really caught my attention is that losing such an animal will have a more widespread effect than initially meets the eye. Since this turtle feeds on a number of bottom dwellers, their disappearance would lead to an exploding population which would alter the eco balance in many of the oceans. The author predicts there would be a domino effect. I certainly do not want to find out.

Kathy Faust
Kathy Faust

These poor beautiful creatures. Do you know why they haven’t changed much over the years? Because evolution is all about adaptation. If a species can’t adapt, they can’t survive. Up until the past hundred years or so, we weren’t polluting our seas at the level which we are now grossly doing so. Sea turtles had no need to adapt, but now they do and it makes me wonder what they will adapt to.

I don’t think shrimp nets are the worst problem today. Why? Because people are starting to avoid eating shrimp because of the mutations that are coming about after being poisoned with radiation and crude oil.

Seafood is my favorite kind of food, yet I can hardly even look at the bags of shrimp in the grocery store, much less buy and cook them anymore. I certainly won’t order them from a restaurant, where food is bought in bulk and with less care than take at home. And remember, those mutations are visual indicators of what we have done. We don’t even know what we have actually done because we can’t see everything that’s going on.

Avoid shrimp that’s not being caught in turtle safe nets? Sure…because I’m avoiding shrimp altogether…and I miss it.

Anonymous
Anonymous

After being made aware of the problem, I definitely think it is a good idea to try and do what we can to help save the sea turtles. I think there are actually things which we can do, besides actually becoming a shrimper and making sure that we use those turtle excluder devices.

We should all first understand that these animals are indeed endangered species. The first thing we can do, assuming you live on the coast, is to turn out lights which are visible from the beach. This is really important since sea turtle hatchlings use the light from the moon to find there way to the ocean. Additional lights can sometimes confuse them and send them in the wrong direction. That almost assures that they will never make it to the beach and will likely be eaten by a predator.

We should also all strive to reduce the amount of trash that we each produce and also try to help clean up the beach. This is just common sense. It is something which we should all be doing any way! The poor sea turtles can sometimes become entangled in plastic and other types of trash, both on the beach and even in the water. This includes things like discarded fishing lines, balloons and plastic bags. In some cases, an unsuspecting turtle can confuse these things for food and actually eat them, leading to injury or death.

Be aware of the sea turtle nesting areas. Personally I have never been lucky enough to witness something like this in person. However, if I was, I would make certain to keep my distance and not disturb the situation. Do not touch them or use flashlights. You also want to try and be conscious of where the nesting areas are so that you do inadvertently trample on the babies.

We can all reduce the amount of chemicals that we use. This includes both in the home and on our lawn. These chemicals can actually wash into the coastal waters and kill plants and animals. This includes sea turtles. The responsible thing to do is to either make sure that chemicals are properly disposed of or use biodegradable chemical alternatives.

We could also volunteer. Maybe get out there and organize a clean up day at your local beach. Or join a conservation group which is engaged in the fight to save sea turtles and other endangered species.

It also may be interesting to note that sea turtles are some amazing creatures. They have been around for over 100 million years! This even predates the last era of dinosaurs. They are also very gentle animals which have a longer life span than humans. Some sea turtles can live for up to 200 years, although most have an average lifespan of around 60 years (roughly equivalent to that of humans). Certainly these are some amazing animals and losing them to something as preventable as shrimping nets and fishing companies that won’t follow regulations would be a horrible fate.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I must admit that I am not really very conscious of how my food is caught or killed. Generally I guess I just like to remain ignorant. Nevertheless, I learned quite a bit from this article. Prior to this read, I did not even know that sea turtles were actually caught up in shrimp nets. I was also unaware that US law required certain devices that allow the turtles to escape if they should happen to find themselves caught up in one of those nets. Poor guys!

I also learned that many foreign based fisher people or companies do not use these turtle escape devices. I also discovered that the WTO is currently being pressured by many foreign interests and businesses that do not want to add these turtle escape devices.

This also made me wonder why they would not use these devices. According to the author they allow 97 to 98 percent of the sea turtles to escape the nets. I can only assume that they require a pretty significant investment, either in terms of money, time or manpower (or possibly all three in combination).

I started doing a little research on this situation. I discovered that there are also a number of conservation groups that do not think even the US is doing enough to help protect these sea turtles. Some groups are claiming that the National Marine Fisheries Service is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing some shrimpers to operate with these required turtle escape devices. Apparently certain types of trawls (which I gather are types of nets or other shrimp catching devices) and other nets are exempt from these requirements under certain conditions.

I am not sure exactly what these requirements and exceptions are. However, I did discover that a Louisiana state law (passed in 1987) makes it illegal for state wildlife agents to enforce the turtle excluder device regulations in state waters.

There has actually been a lawsuit filed to force a change in this state law and force all of the shrimpers in the state to put these turtle excluder devices on all their shrimping equipment. They feel that the current practices which include all of these exceptions are leading to a condition where a huge number of gulf sea turtles are being killed. They may be right. They feel capable of being able to prove that over the last few generations industrial shrimping has been the leading cause of death among sea turtles. In 2011 alone over 1400 dead and injured sea turtles have washed ashore.

Of course, the federal agency being sued has a different opinion. They claim that for the most part compliance with these federal regulations has traditionally been high. They also readily admit that after the oil spill in the Gulf compliance rates did decline. However, as soon as they were made aware of this drop they underwent a campaign aimed at increasing the compliance rate. Through sending out newsletters and a number of other things, the compliance rate rapidly rose to 87 percent.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I am amazed at how much info the article had. This is a great call to action for saving our beloved little sea turtles!

Amy Brannan
Admin
Amy Brannan

Isn’t it amazing how much information is available to us about these age old creatures and yet we continue to ignore the devastation that we are causing them? If only everyone understood just how much of a role these sea creatures play in the health of the world’s oceans perhaps then they would pay heed.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Sea turtles do need to be saved! I mean,what if you were being suffocated by litter and oil? How would you feel? Well,you would feel dead is the answer,cuz you would be! SEA TURTLES MUST BE SAVED!!!!

Anonymous
Anonymous

true dat sister

Anonymous
Anonymous

Any news on how the poor sea turtles are faring after the BP Oil Spill aftermath? Great article on sea turtles, I hope it stays current so we can follow their progress. I live close to the coast and we are already feeling the impact in local fisheries, etc. It’s horrible!! I just hope the sea turtles can be saved before it’s too late…

Anonymous
Anonymous

If you save the sea turtles we are sure to have a healthy and beautiful environment.

Anonymous
Anonymous

These creatures have been around since before the dinosaurs? Very interesting article here. We have to protect our planet in order to live in peace with nature!

Good luck!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Have you guys heard of La Tortuga Feliz (“Happy Turtle”) – a sea turtle sanctuary in Mexico? As you know, baby turtles are prime feed for predators. La Tortuga Feliz transfers the baby eggs to protected areas, where they are kept in the appropriate conditions (soil and temperature).

Before the eggs hatch, they are taken back to their original location so they may grow into full grown turtles. During this time, the turtles are watched to ensure that they grow safely to a swimming age. Once they’re in the water they’re able to fend for themselves for the most part.

The sanctuary has already rescued hundreds of thousands of baby turtles. Just trying to get the word out to Earth’s Friends fans so we can get more support!

Thanks 🙂

Anonymous
Anonymous

We have to save our planet and animals!

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