• Anna Tattelman

A Hard Day in the World of Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are a beautiful, curious and unproblematic species that live in the ocean. They barely cause any harm to humans for they only ever harm their prey. With that being said, most people do not realize the threats and danger that sea turtles face everyday. A few of the most important threats include coastal development, pollution, plastics, and invasive species.


Coastal Development

With the advancement of hotels, parking lots and housing along nesting beaches, female turtles are forced to use suboptimal nesting habitats. After emerging from their nests at night, newborn hatchlings find their way from nest to sea using the light of the moon. Artificial lighting that is used for the hotels and parking lots, confuses the newborns and can mislead them in the wrong direction. This diminishes their chances for survival because it can cause dehydration and exhaustion. It also gives predators a more time to make a move, which could result in death for the baby turtle.


Pollution

Pollution is an issue that has been affecting the ocean for a while now and turtles are only one of the many species impacted by it. However, that does not mean that the importance of the impact of pollution on turtles is any less than other species. Pollution is caused by humans. Waste such as rappers, plastics, empty bottles, and any other form of solid waste can cause serious injuries and illnesses for turtles. Solid waste, chemicals, and pollutants from human activities enter the ocean causing injury, illness and even death to sea turtles. Pollutants and chemicals from human activities caused by boating and water games, can toxify the waters and habitats that turtles live in, which disturbs their natural routine. The pollution sources vary from wastewater discharge released by cruise liners to fishing nets that are lost to fertilizer runoff all the way from central farming grounds. This means that even people living in places nowhere near the sea can be the cause of these issues. Thousands of manmade chemicals contaminate the marine environment, many of which accumulate in the living areas of sea turtles. The chemicals can affect brain function and reproductive success. Sea turtles also consume plastics and marine debris that are found in the waters they live, because they do not know how harmful it truly is.


Plastics

Each year, over six million tons of trash enters the oceans. Marine trash is a hazard to turtles, threatening their ability to grow and survive. It was concluded from a study on young loggerhead turtles that 15 percent of them had ingested large amounts of plastics that prevented their stomachs from functioning the correct way.





This sea turtle is unaware of how harmful this object is, and therefore may only see it as a source of food.



Invasive Species

Invasive species are non-native species of plants, animals or insects that have been introduced into an area where they were not naturally found. They can be extremely dangerous for sea turtles by competing for space and food or by acting as predators.

Examples of invasive species include the stowaway barnacle, a hidden plant seed in the sole of a hiking boot worn on a remote island or a pet iguana released in the wild. In both of these examples, the species were found in areas where they would not naturally be found. Most of the time, invasive species are unintentional. For sea turtles, invasive species found in their living areas can be very dangerous, especially on the beach, where it is easy to dig up nests and eat sea turtle eggs.



Sources: 

https://usa.oceana.org/other-threats-sea-turtles

https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-threats-sea-turtles/


Picture credits:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/05/us/turtles-fourth-of-july-trnd/index.html

https://www.ecowatch.com/ocean-plastic-smell-sea-turtles-2645447334.html



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