Why Are Sea Turtles Endangered?

Six out of seven sea turtle species are threatened. There are many reasons why, and many things we can do to help. So, why are sea turtles endangered?

Sea turtles are endangered due to many unnatural hazards. This includes fisheries, pollution, and climate change. These have affected sea turtle populations all over the world, leaving 6 out of 7 species endangered. There are many solutions to these issues, like recycling and cleaning our oceans.

If you want to learn about why there endangered and what you can do to help, keep reading. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about endangered sea turtles.

Let’s dive in.

Why are sea turtles endangered?

Sea turtles are endangered due to human activity, pollution, and more. This is threatening the population and declining the number of sea turtles.

We’ll go over all these problems in more depth now. We’ll also talk about how we can prevent the sea turtles from becoming extinct.

1. Pollution

Many types of pollution have been affecting the sea turtle population. Plastic, chemical, and light pollution have been increasing over the years.

Plastic pollution is the most common type that affects sea turtles. Turtles have evolved to hunt underwater for food, and their diets include jellyfish.

52% of the world’s sea turtles have consumed plastic, often mistaking plastic bags for food. Turtles don’t know what plastic is and eat plastic bags, thinking it’s jellyfish or algae.

Chemical pollution is also dangerous for sea turtles. Oil spills, toxic metals, and contaminants are issues and can harm nests. It also weakens their immune systems and makes it easier for them to die of disease.

They can also cause disease and lead to death. Degraded crude oil forms tarballs which contaminate food and often kill hatchlings. Toxic metals also build up in the kidneys and liver of sea turtles.

Artificial light can also confuse hatchlings and lead them away from the sea. Light pollution is a significant threat to hatchlings. It makes them visible to predators and humans.

Sea turtles die from dehydration and car accidents as well. Human activity on beaches leads to female sea turtles finding unsuitable nesting spots.

Bad nesting spots lower the hatchling’s chance of survival and decrease the amount that makes it to sea. This makes them more vulnerable to predators.

2. Fisheries

Fisheries are a massive problem for sea turtles. It can affect their diets, and habitats and even cause death from entanglement.

Fishing hooks, long lines, trawls, and gill nets can capture the sea turtle and injure it. These items harm sea turtles when swallowed, getting caught in their throat and stomach.

Turtles swim in a fast, circular motion, and their flippers are caught in fishing lines. Their swimming techniques can cause them to lose one of their flippers. They may also drown because of their inability to swim.

Boat collisions are also dangerous to turtles and can leave their shell destroyed. The propeller from a boat can cut a turtle’s shell and hurt its internal organs. The turtles are then unable to submerge and stay floating above the water.

3. Poaching

Poaching is a significant problem and a danger to the population of sea turtles. Sea turtles get over-exploited for their meat, shells, and eggs.

On unprotected beaches, sea turtle nests become damaged. Poachers steal their eggs and suffer no consequences. Poachers hunt the turtles at night when turtles lay their eggs on the beaches.

Before, sea turtle meat was not a popular meal. Indigenous tribes ate them for protein, but now sea turtle meat is popular worldwide. People use the kidney and liver for soup, along with oil from their fat for medicine.

Along with their meat, poachers sell their shells as well. Used in jewelry, medicine, and decor, turtle shell items are popular in foreign markets.

Turtles are over-exploited to meet the demand for turtle shell jewelry and accessories. It would help if you tried to avoid vendors selling these items to prevent the extinction of sea turtles.

Sea turtles are often kept as exotic pets and sold in illegal marketplaces. Sea turtles are not suitable pets as they have adapted to survive in the sea.

They also get larger as they grow, making them difficult to keep and look after. Without proper care, the sea turtles will die.

3. Climate change

Climate change has been introducing new problems for sea turtles. These issues are making it much more difficult for sea turtles to survive.

With sea levels rising and much stronger storms, the beaches are eroding and getting destroyed. This ruins their habitats on the beaches and their nests.

The ocean is also getting warmer, which changes the ocean’s currents. This change introduces the sea turtle to more predators, making it harder for them to survive.

Since the sex of a sea turtle’s nest depends on temperature, this can become a problem. With warmer beaches, studies show that there might be a shortage of males.

For a nest with a majority of males in it, a nest temperature below 82°F needs to be achieved. If the sand is warmer more female sea turtles will hatch.

This is creating a shortage of males and leaves the female sea turtle with no mate. That means that no more hatchlings can be born and lowers the population.

Sea turtles have also been changing their behaviors to adapt to the heat. Research done on hawksbill sea turtles suggests that they have been migrating to cooler, deeper waters until the temperature dropped.

This means that they could travel to unprotected beaches and be introduced to new predators. Poachers may also be able to get away with killing them because the beach isn’t protected.

4. Costal development

Sea turtles and their habitats are affected by major coastal development. These unnatural occurrences are stranding and injuring unlucky sea turtles.

Seafloor dredging is a problem for sea turtle populations. Many sea turtles are left with life-threatening injuries. Many are sadly cut in half or crushed by equipment.

Structures built on beaches can prevent sea turtles from nesting. This means that eggs aren’t getting laid and cannot hatch new hatchlings.

These buildings degrade the beach and the female sea turtles are unable to get around them or find a good spot. Erosion can also cause a problem for females as there won’t be any suitable spots that can incubate the eggs.

Vessel traffic is also killing the world’s sea turtles. As boats and underwater vehicles have been getting bigger and faster, they are also injuring sea turtles.

These massive watercraft hit sea turtles as they are resting, migrating, or looking for something to eat. When unaware of the vehicle, they are unable to move and they are struck down and hurt.

When did sea turtles become endangered?

Each species has become endangered over time. This table shows when all of the sea turtle species became endangered.

FlatbackNot enough data
HawksbillCritically endangered2007
Kemp’s RidleyCritically endangered1970
LoggerheadVulnerable 1978
Olive RidleyVulnerable1978

There isn’t enough scientific data to prove the flatback’s status. Therefore, this makes it the only sea turtle species not listed as threatened.

The Kemp’s Ridley is the rarest sea turtle species in the world. Specialists have reason to believe that there are only around 7,000 to 9,000 nesting females left.

Sales of turtle shell items have driven the hawksbill species to extinction. Poachers target this species specifically for its shell.

The olive ridley is the most common sea turtle in the world, with a female population of 2 million. In the US, the loggerhead is the most abundant.

How many sea turtles are left?

Current estimates say around 6.5 million sea turtles are left in total. These numbers aren’t spread out between each species.

The flatback population is estimated to be around 20,000 to 21,000 nesting females. The leatherback has a population close to this number, with less than 25,000 remaining sea turtles.

Green sea turtles have a female population of around 1.5 million worldwide. The olive ridley is in the millions too, with a population of 2 million worldwide.

The hawksbill population has decreased by 80% last century with 5 known populations worldwide. Researchers believe there are 8,000 nesting females left, but only around 1,000 females nest every year.

The kemp’s ridley has similar numbers to the hawksbill. There are only around 7,000 to 9,000 nesting females today.

Right now, the loggerhead population is around 50,000. There used to be millions thriving in our oceans years ago.

How can we help the sea turtles?

There are many things we humans can do to protect the sea turtles. We are the only ones that can reverse the damage we have done to the world’s sea turtles.

Below is a list of things you can do to protect sea turtles. Many of these are small activities you can incorporate into your life.

  • Avoid single-use plastic – this is an effective method to prevent more plastic from trapping sea turtles.
  • If you do use single-use plastic, recycle – Always recycle your single-use plastic to give it a new life instead of dumping it in the ocean.
  • Participate in beach cleanups – You can help nesting female sea turtles by picking up plastic and obstacles that prevent them from laying eggs.
  • Volunteer – You can help take care of injured sea turtles by volunteering – look out for local sea turtle volunteer groups you can sign up for.

These are examples of things you can do to help sea turtles.

In conclusion

The threat of sea turtles becoming extinct has increased over the past years. This affects the marine ecosystem.

Pollution affects sea turtle pollution in many ways. Climate change is another factor killing sea turtles.

Poaching from humans is also a problem, along with coastal development. Human activity is an issue with sea turtle pollution.

Most sea turtle species became extinct in the 1970s. The hawksbill is an exception, as the species was listed as critically endangered in 2007.

6.5 million sea turtles are left in the world’s oceans. Each species has its own number of populations left.

There are many things we can do to help sea turtles. This includes joining in beach clean-ups and helping injured sea turtles.

Leave a Comment