Sailors for the Sea Publishes Ocean Watch Essay Sea Turtles a Call for Conservation: Why Now and How

 

Newport, Rhode Island - October 24, 2012 - Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation nonprofit focused on the sailing and boating community, today published Sea Turtles a Call for Conservation: Why now…and How. This essay focuses on the need to protect sea turtles as more than an act of compassion but as requirement to preserve a necessary link in the fragile chain of our earth's ecosystem.

Written by Jennifer R. Nolan, freelance writer and published author, with accompanying photographs from Jim Abernethy, this essay introduces the reader to the human connection with the "world of the sea turtle" and the ocean at large. It describes the evolutionary lineage that dates back at least 110 million years represented by today's sea turtles, and the need for immediate action to protect these endangered creatures.

According to Nolan, based on current data and trends, sea turtles are considered by many to be on the brink of extinction. There are seven species - flatback, green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley - that are endangered, all but one critically. Immediate action is imperative if they are to rebound.

Threats Come in Various Forms
Maintaining the status quo is projected to fuel the existing decline of sea turtle populations worldwide. On an international level, realigning policies and governance requires taking time-sensitive steps designed to save sea turtles. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated, "The conservation and recovery of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation and agreements to ensure the survival of these highly migratory animals,"

Humankind presents a variety of threats to the health, safety, and well-being of sea turtle populations worldwide. They include:

  • The use of longlines, a controversial modern fishing technique in which boats run fishing lines up to 60 miles in length dropping millions of hooks each day (estimates indicate 1.4 billion hooks are cast into the ocean worldwide each year). Longlines decimate untold number of marine life, with estimates from The Humane Society of the United States suggesting longlines kill more than 40,000 sea turtles, 300,000 seabirds (including endangered albatrosses), millions of sharks, and thousands of marine mammals such as oceanic dolphins, sperm whales, and orcas.
  • The use of nets also delivers crushing effects on sea turtle populations. Sea turtles caught in these fishing nets are unable to surface for oxygen - stressed and unable to breathe, they drown. Though changes in the devices used in nets are helping to reduce unnecessary sea turtle deaths, the efforts alone will not allow the population numbers to recover. Universal enactment of increased global restrictions on fisheries, protection of prime sea turtle habitats, and higher standards for water quality is needed if these reptiles are to survive. 
  • Water pollution effecting the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean is also a serious problem for sea turtles. An unprecedented number of sea turtles now suffer from fibropapillomatosis (presenting as growths on the soft tissue), a disease believed by some scientists that is linked to pollution. Gambling with the environment's safety severely affects an abundance of wildlife and can trigger massive economic loss. For example, The Gulf of Mexico, which was gravely impacted by the Gulf Oil Spill, is a breeding ground for countless species and "home" to the critically endangered Kemp's ridley. The chemicals and oil slicks critically contaminated their prey (primarily crustaceans such as blue crabs), which in turn has threatened the fate of the Kemp's ridley. Such lack of vision and responsibility by industry and government is supported only by what society demands and allows.

What Can You Do?
For centuries, the resilience of sea turtles has been tested, and until now they have adapted. Human actions and intervention will determine the survival and extinction rates of sea turtles. Immediate actions include:

  • Signing petitions to protect them
  • Pulling up the abandoned "ghost nets"
  • Removing harpoons from those who harvest these defenseless creatures
  • Conserving and cleaning up littered beaches
  • Turning off the lights that shine on sacred nesting grounds when the sun sinks below the horizon line

Furthermore:

  • Abide by laws and efforts that seek to protect sea turtles and their natural habitats.
  • Avoid using plastic bags or helium balloons-sea turtles ingest this type of trash that floats in the ocean, mistaking it for jellyfish.
  • Support ocean conservation by making a donation to Sailors for the Sea
  • Support conservation organizations that address key threats to sea turtles.
  • Write or call congressional delegates; encourage them to vote in favor of conservation efforts benefiting sea turtles and their habitats.
  • Use biodegradable products for lawn care, garden, and household uses, and on your boat - these products end up in waterways that feed into the ocean.
  • If you go to the beach during nesting months, please remove all beach chairs, umbrellas, and trash upon leaving. Flatten sand castles and fill in any holes formed on the beach.
  • Do not disrupt any roped off nesting grounds, especially where "No trespassing" signs are posted.
  • Respect light-restriction laws near beaches where sea turtles nest.
  • Sign petitions that fight to stop accidental and intentional sea turtle deaths. Boycott all turtle products, both meat and ornamental. 
  • Participate in an "Adopt a sea turtle" program through one of the many non-profits that offer this fun and easy way to help save sea turtles.

More about the Ocean Watch Essay Program
The Ocean Watch Essay program, a free online resource accessible through the Sailors for the Sea website, provides a constant stream of updated articles on current ocean issues such as ocean acidification, plastics, nonpoint source pollution, and invasive species. Each essay is accompanied by information on how individuals can make a difference in relation to the issue, creating a linkage from knowledge to personal action. Whenever possible, the program also provides information about activities, events, and opportunities, such as lectures, classes, and beach and ocean water clean ups, for people to take action to preserve, protect, and improve the health of the ocean and coastal waters. To see the entire library of Ocean Watch Essays, click here.