TFK Kid Reporter Sophia Hou cares about sea turtles. She talked to experts about why these animals are in danger and how people can help.
Sea turtles live in coastal areas and open waters all over the world. Six species live in United States waters. All of them are vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.
Ashleigh Bandimere is the sea turtle program coordinator at the Oceanic Society. I asked her what the greatest threat to sea turtles is. She said it’s industrial-scale fisheries. Marine animals like sea turtles get caught in nets intended to catch other animals. Ghost gear, or abandoned gear, also entangles the reptiles.
And sea turtle populations have been affected by climate change. It has caused more storms and a rise in sea levels. These have destroyed nesting habitats.
Coastal development has affected sea turtles, too. Pollution harms the animals. Vehicles pack down beach sand. This makes it hard for female sea turtles to dig nests. And lights from buildings and roads confuse the hatchlings and lead them away from the ocean. “Very few sea turtle hatchlings will make it to adulthood, so each adult turtle is extremely special,” Bandimere says. “One turtle will be responsible for laying thousands of eggs every few years.”
Many people and organizations are working to reverse the decline in sea turtle populations. Leigh Henry is director of wildlife policy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). She told me that WWF “works with fisheries to help them switch to more turtle-friendly fishing hooks and nets.” She also says installing LED lights inside of nets can help “alert sea turtles to their presence,” so the animals can swim around them.
What does the future hold for sea turtles? Bandimere is confident we can save them. “We know what threats they face,” she says. “And we know what’s needed to eliminate or decrease these threats. It’s just a matter of making it happen.”
You Can Help, Too
Here are five ways you can help sea turtles.
Avoid single-use plastic.
Pick up trash on the beach. Dispose of it properly.
Flatten old sand castles and fill in holes in the sand. That way, female sea turtles will have a place to dig their nests and hatchlings will have a clear path to the water.
Turn off flashlights on the beach during nesting season so hatchlings are not confused.
Don’t buy souvenirs made of sea turtle shells.