The decline in the sea turtle population is largely due to getting caught in netting meant for other sea creatures. Many are killed by long lines or trawls not meant for them. Others drown when they get caught in gill nets. If they aren't killed by by-catch, then they are seriously injured.
Humans are constantly building and expanding, and more often than not, we take it too far. Developing new buildings on the coast ruins sea turtle nesting areas. If the nesting areas don't get ruined by debris or human interference and the eggs manage to hatch, the young turtles get disoriented by the lights and noises and sometimes never make their way to the ocean, leading to eventual mortality.
Over the years turtle nesting has increased. Granted, it drastically varies year to year as in 2014 there were less than 2,000 nests, but in 2015, there were over 14,000. That is the highest number of nests that have been recorded since before 1982. With the increase of nests, it gives hope that the turtle population isn't doomed, but it also gives poachers an opportunity to make more profit off of their demise.
Even though sea turtles are critically endangered, it is still legal to hunt them in many places. Overall, 42,000 sea turtles are legally killed each year. However, the numbers are also high in places where hunting and poaching sea turtles is banned. Little to nothing is ever done about illegal poaching, which kills over 3,000 turtles each year. It shows that while banning turtle hunting may bring down the mortality rate, it inevitably doesn't stop illegal poaching. Until more actions are taken against illegal poachers, turtles will continue to die.
Even though sea turtles are endangered, they are a frequent victim to poaching. Illegal poaching is an industry that brings in incredible amounts of money. Many parts of the world use sea turtles for ceremonial purposes or to make jewelry or use as decoration. The lack of protection and awareness isn't sustainable because sea turtles are detrimental to the health of the oceans ecosystem. Monitoring and catching illegal poaching is often times impossible, but with raised awareness, it could be stopped.
Sea turtles frequently get caught on lines and nets that were intended for other marine animals. This is a huge issue as over 250,000 sea turtles are caught and/or killed each year. When they are caught, they are unable to surface for air and they could drown or lose limbs. They are protected by the Endangered Species Act in the United States, but internationally, there are no set laws protecting them. There are more devices being created, such as TED's (turtle excluder device), everyday to help prevent sea turtles from getting caught which could reduce the mortality rates directly caused by lines and nets.
SUMMARY: Scientists have discovered a micro-species that lives on sea turtles specifically. Diatoms produce vast amounts of oxygen and may even be just as essential to a sea turtle's health as sea turtles are important to their survival. IMPACT: Diatoms make up about 50% of oceanic and global oxygen production and this specific diatom would die off if sea turtles were to go extinct. If either went extinct, it would be catastrophic as diatoms produce a fair amount of the worlds oxygen. CONNECTIONS: With sea turtles being critically endangered, the idea of both species going extinct isn't far from reality. Little is being done to protect the well-being of sea turtles, which by default, endangers these diatoms as well.
SUMMARY: Many different endangered sea turtles and tortoise species are being illegally sold in Indonesia. Many species were illegally imported and critically endangered. Non-native species could sell for as much as $1,535 while native species could sell for as little as $83. As the laws regarding imports into Indonesia are outdated, it makes it extremely easy to illegally import turtles and tortoises. IMPACTS: Illegal sea turtle trade is unsustainable because they are already critically endangered and the illegal trade could lead to their extinction. This could drastically affect the oceanic ecosystem as their extinction would happen so rapidly giving little to no time for the ecosystem to naturally adjust. CAUSES: Indonesia has very poor import regulations that are rarely checked up on. Along with that, the 1990 Conservation Act does not protect non-native species which makes it difficult for law enforcement to halt the illegal trade of endangered species.
A student at Duke University is doing research on how light pollution affects a sea turtles nesting area and how it affects their hatchlings later on. She created a tiny drone that is both the size and height of a sea turtle and ran it across the beach to understand what sea turtles see when they come to nest. They find that highly lit areas scare the turtles and they decide not to nest, but if they do, she also found that hatchlings are attracted to light and get easily disoriented which leads to them never finding their way to the ocean. This research could be used to help figure out how we can help a turtles reaction to light pollution or what we could possibly do to make it easier for them to nest in the future.
Halifax wants to ban plastic bags in the hopes that less will end up in the ocean. Leatherback sea turtles are critically endangered and often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. When eaten, plastic bags block the intestines and the turtles could starve to death. It has been shown that around 40% of all leatherback sea turtles have plastic found in their stomachs when they are cut open. By banning plastic bags, it could potentially have a positive effect on sea turtles.
There are many factors that lead to the endangerment of sea turtles. Whether it be poaching, pollution or fishing nets, there are many factors that make them fight for their lives. Overall, more should be done to help save them. We are the reason this species is endangered, so it only seems right that we should be responsible for saving them. More laws need to be put in place internationally and there needs to be more awareness of what is going on. The fate of this species has always been in our hands and it's time to do something that will benefit them rather than further the rate of extinction.