There are seven species of sea turtles. Six of these species are endangered. Their voyage across the ocean and the greed of humans have brought some to an alarmingly short number.
Some of the dangers that these magnificent creatures encounter on their voyage include:
- Capture in fishing gear
- Coastal development that decreases their feeding and nesting sites
- Ocean pollution
- Accidental entanglement in fishing gear
All of the sea turtles require air to breath. This includes all species from the smallest Kemp’s Ridley which weighs 80-100 pounds to the magnificently huge leatherback that can reach weights over 100 pounds.
Sea turtles spend their lives at sea. The only time the females come ashore is to nest every 2-5 years. The hatchling leave their nests and slowly make their way to the ocean after about sixty days. The juveniles will spend their first years in open oceans and will eventually move to estuaries, bays and nearby shore waters. Very few actually survive these years because of the various predators that they meet on their journey.
Every ocean will have some turtles. Most will nest on tropical or subtropical beaches. The nesting takes place after very long migration distances. Loggerheads tend to nest in Japan. After nesting, they migrate to Baja Sur California, Mexico. While there they will forage for food and return to Japan. Leatherbacks are found as far south as Chile and north to Alaska.
Dietary needs vary according to the species. Leatherbacks feed on soft-bodied animals and jellyfish. Greens eat sea grasses. Loggerhead sea turtles eat clams and crabs. Hawksbills rely on invertebrates and spongy creatures and the Kemp’s Ridley will forage for crabs.
Humans present many threats to the sea turtle. This animal that has survived over 100 million years. They survived the extinction of the dinosaur and are now victims of human hunting and deep-sea fisherman. They can be hunted for their meat and eggs or become entangled in fishing loss. Much of their habitat is being developed and leaving the turtle to find new areas to nest.
When they are caught in fishing nets or on long lines, they drown. Development of the coastal areas can impact coral reefs, destroy nesting sites and the buildings that are built cast artificial light which can confuse the hatchlings. This will cause the hatchlings to go towards the lights instead of to the ocean to begin their lives.
Plastic bags present a hazard. The resemble jelly fish and the sea turtles will eat them, consequently blocking their intestines and may kill them.
There are countries that consider turtle meat and eggs delicacies. This also adds to the declining population.
Leatherbacks, hawksbills and Kemp’s Ridley’s are critically endangered. These species are at a high risk of extinction. Greens and Loggerheads are endangered which indicates they may be facing a high risk of extinction. Olive Ridley’s are vulnerable. They too, are at high risk of extinction. Flatback’s do not have sufficient data to identify the state of their vulnerability.
There are various organizations that are dedicated to the rehabilitation and safety of these magnificent creatures.