How to Help Sea Turtles Thrive

Hello, Adventurers! Welcome back to the Coastal Expeditions’ blog! Here you’ll find interesting facts about wildlife, nature, and exciting opportunities to explore the beauty of the Lowcountry! If you haven’t read our previous posts about the wonder of St. Phillips Island and dismantling myths about sharks then be sure to check those out after finishing this one! As well, come back here to check out our upcoming posts about summer birding and our Veterans’ Sea Kayak Resilience Program!

 

We’ve heard a lot in recent years about refraining from the use of plastic straws to “save the sea turtles.” The truth is there’s a great deal more we can do to help sea turtles thrive. Sea turtles contribute greatly to their ecosystem and have a right to clean oceans and safe beaches to lay their nests. We have a responsibility to do what we can to help protect sea turtles and we’re here to tell you how!

 

The Greatest Threats to Sea Turtles

 

The greatest threats to sea turtles, as determined by the IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, are fisheries bycatch, coastal development, pollution and pathogens, direct take, and climate change. We’ll go through each of these aspects individually and, in the next section, detail how you can help lessen the damage done to sea turtle populations.

 

Fisheries Bycatch

 

Bycatch is anything caught during the fishing process which was not the intended catch. Fishing boats throw out nets to collect large quantities of fish all at once and other types of sea animals can be dragged into the catch (including sharks and dolphins, in addition to sea turtles). After the turtles are caught by the longlines, gillnets, or trawls, they are thrown away. And, if they escape their fate as bycatch, they are still impacted by major shifts in their food supply. Bycatch is the cause for tens of thousands of sea turtle deaths every year.

 

Coastal Development

 

Who doesn’t want to live close to the beach? We understand the appeal of living on the coast, but as more and more developers build high-rises and resorts, sea turtles suffer. Development near the coastline can lead to increased boat vessel traffic, foot traffic, seafloor dredging, and beach erosion. As well, the added lights can be disorienting for hatchlings. All in all, coastal development can be detrimental to sea turtle populations.

 

Pollution and Pathogens

 

Sea turtles are built durable and equipped with the necessary body armor to protect them from their natural enemies. However, their thick shells cannot protect them from being entangled in nets, nor help them differentiate between a plastic bag and a jellyfish. These foreign elements in their ecosystem are perhaps more deadly than any predator. Sea turtles can mistakenly ingest plastic pollution and petroleum by-products, leading to internal injury. As well, they can be caught in discarded fishing gear. These products originate with humans and, thus, we have a responsibility to keep them out of sea turtle’s homes.

 

Direct Take

 

Direct take is the killing and trading of sea turtles on the global market for profit. Sea turtles can be sold as exotic food, oil, leather, and jewelry. This is perhaps the most egregious form of harm human beings can perpetrate on sea turtles. If you ever come across tortoiseshell jewelry, be sure not to buy and to report the seller.

 

Climate Change

 

Finally, there’s climate change. Climate change is the gradual increase of the global temperature as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change can impact the rate of birth for male and female sea turtles. The sex of sea turtles is determined by the temperature of the sand they’re nested within. Cooler temperatures produce male sea turtles, warmer temperatures produce female sea turtles, and a fluctuation in temperature produces a mix of both male and female sea turtles. As temperature’s rise, less and less male sea turtles will hatch. In the long term, this could lead to the eventual extinction of the species. Additionally, climate change can increase rates of disease within the species and increase the frequency of extreme weather, which destroys nests and reefs.

 

These five factors aren’t the only threats to sea turtles, but they’re the most pressing. Now, we’ll discuss what we can do to help mitigate these destructive factors.

 

How You Can Help

 

As a start, you can become knowledgeable about sea turtles. What do they eat? In what parts of the ocean do they live? How many different species of sea turtles exist? Obtaining a better understanding of sea turtles as a species may give you a deeper appreciation for their existence and impress upon you the importance of making sure they have everything they need to survive. In the next section, we’ll give you some interesting facts about sea turtles.

 

Once you’ve brushed up on your sea turtle trivia, your learning isn’t done yet. Now, it’s time to educate yourself on how the seafood you eat is caught. Becoming a conscious and responsible consumer of seafood starts with investigating the fishing practices of the brand you buy from. How was your seafood caught? Did they catch in an area with a high population of sea turtles? Are they transparent about their bycatch numbers? Choose seafood suppliers who fish in sustainable ways. You can use online sites like Seafood Watch to vet suppliers or choose from suppliers who are certified by programs like Marine Stewardship Council. Use your buying power for good. 

 

Now you’ve educated yourself, perhaps you want to give back in a tangible way. The solution is simple: volunteer. Get involved in sea turtle conservation efforts, volunteer at your local aquarium, or join in on a beach clean-up day. Removing trash from sea turtles’ environment has a direct impact on their quality of life and ability to procreate. Indirectly, reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use. This is where “don’t use plastic straws” comes from. It’s true—when you can, avoid using plastic straws—but you should be conscientious of more than just straws. Remember to carry around a reusable water bottle and reusable shopping bags. Additionally, refrain from releasing balloons into the air as these most likely end up in the ocean.

 

Nesting beaches should be dark at night, so as not to disorient any hatchlings as they make their initial trek to the surf. If you’re staying in a hotel near the beach, close your curtains and turn off any bright lights once the sun goes down. Choose hotels which teach proper etiquette concerning beach activity and have policies in place to protect the turtles. When at the beach, remove recreation beach equipment (e.x. umbrellas, chairs, towels) when you leave as these could become potential obstacles for nesting turtles. Knock down any sandcastles and fill in any holes, as well. Finally, do not—we repeat do not—disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings. You can imagine how you’d feel if strangers came up to you while you were giving birth (or just after). You can watch quietly from a distance, if you’re interested.

 

The rudder of a boat can do major damage to sea turtles. When fishing, give sea turtles coming up for air plenty of space (e.g. fifty yards). If they come closer to you, put your boat in neutral. You might invest in a pair of polarized sunglasses, as these can help you spot sea turtles more easily. Of course, you should never discard fishing gear in the ocean.

 

If you come across an injured sea turtle, contact your local sea turtle stranding network. They’ll know how to help. Do not, under any circumstance, feed a sea turtle. It’s actually illegal and can lessen their ability to find food for themselves.

 

Interesting Facts About Sea Turtles

 

Here are some interesting facts about sea turtles!

 

  • Green turtles are herbivores, which means they mostly consume foods like kelp and algae. These foods imbue their cartilage and fat with a greenish hue. This is how they come by their name.
  • Sea turtles are as old as dinosaurs and haven’t changed much since the land before time!
  • Hawksbill sea turtles love to eat sponges. They use their pointed beak to pull sponges from their crevasses and hiding spots in coral reefs.
  • A group of turtle eggs is called a clutch.
  • Sea turtles lay 100-125 eggs per nest, every two weeks, for several months every two to four years. That’s a lot of eggs!
  • Clutches hatch after about two months.
  • Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are one-of-a-kind in that they nest during the day. Similarly, Kemp’s Ridley and Olive Ridleys both nest in groups called “arribadas” (which is Spanish for “arrival”). They come ashore together and lay nests at the same time, which reduces the number of hatchlings that can be killed by predators.
  • Sea turtles, unlike other kinds of turtles, cannot retract their heads into their bodies.
  • Leatherback turtles migrate more than 10,000 miles per year and can diver 4,000 feet deep.

 

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about sea turtles and what you can do to help them thrive! We know you’ll go forth and be a great ally to sea turtles everywhere!

 

Are you looking for nature tours, kayak rentals, paddleboard rentals, island tours, kid-friendly tours and chances to explore the Lowcountry? We can help you that and more! Check out our various offerings and find which one suits you and your adventurous spirit! Read up new experiences being offered by Coastal Expeditions on this blog. Until next time, readers. Get out there and explore! Adventure awaits!

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Isle of Palms Rentals

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Take in the stunning beauty of local creeks and waters from one of our kayaks or SUPs. Walk-ups are welcome or call / text to book and we’ll be ready when you are. All gear and instruction provided.

Call or text 843.884.7684 to book.

Outpost Location

Need A Guide?

If you really want to get a feel for the local history, identify the native wildlife, and get to special places, you'll need someone experienced to show you the way. We'll get you there.

Check out our Isle of Palms tours.

Rent a Kayak or Paddleboard Click to Book via Text