The Dangers for Sea Turtles

As industrial fisheries also fish areas near the coast totally empty, more and more local fishermen start poaching for sea turtles. Though these animals are protected in many parts of the world, they are still hunted for their meat and shells. Meat from sea turtles is often sold expensive. In addition eggs from sea turtles are dug out on the beach to sell them as a delicacy.

All species of sea turtles are losing their habitats because of tourism and coastal development. On many beaches where turtles nest, hotels and houses are constructed. Theoretically turtles still can nest on beaches used by people, but in practice they face many problems. Coming to lay their eggs at night, sun chairs may block their way onto the beach. Should they succeed to nest, people might walk over them and even put their parasols in the places where nests where laid and thus destroy the eggs. Hatchlings are very sensitive to vibrations (this is one of the factors that causes them to hatch). People walking on top of the nests can cause them to hatch during the day, which elevates the risk of being victims of predators or simply dehydrating in the hot sun.

The tracks which cars and beach vehicles leave might be a mortal trap for sea turtle hatchlings. Should they fall into one of those artificial trenches, they cannot come out on their own again. When the baby turtles hatch at night they start crawling towards the lightest horizon they see. In natural conditions this would be the ocean´s surface which reflects the light of the atmosphere. Today we find artificial light sources on many beaches. Lights of hotels, bars, restaurants or streetlights disorientate the hatchlings and they don’t find the way to the sea.

Many turtles die in fishing nets as bycatch or are attracted by lures which are set up to catch other fish on longlines. When this happens the turtles get trapped and often tangled up in the fishing gear or even swallows the hook, as a result they cannot come back to the surface to breathe and drown. Like many marine animals, especially mammals, sea turtles are injured by the propellers of motorboats and speedboats. Generally the pollution of the oceans is increasing and causes many animals to become weaker and more susceptible to disease. In many places a lot of waste is simply dumped into the sea. Sea turtles can become entangled in plastic lines and nets.

As many turtles feed on jellyfish, they often confuse plastic bags with their prey and eat them. The plastic cannot be digested, accumulates in their bodies, blocks their digestive system and finally kills them. Many dead turtles are found with their intestines full of plastic bags. Other types of waste can also be dangerous for sea turtles. Waste which is washed up on sea shores in big amounts can block a whole area or beach and prevent them from nesting.

Sea Turtles have been inhabiting our planet for more than 150 million years. They travel thousands of miles in the oceans and after about 20 years they always return to the very same beach from which they once originated to lay their own eggs there. Only one to two out of 1’000 turtle hatchlings grow to adulthood. Once grown up they have only two predators: sharks and human beings.