about sea turtles
who we are
Nests are raided by raccoons, dogs, crabs and ants, and hatchlings are threatened by birds, crabs, lizards and dogs. New hatchlings are in danger from predators like sharks, snappers and barracudas. Scientists estimate that less than 10% of hatchlings survive. Very few predators eat adult sea turtles. One predator of adult sea turtles is the tiger shark and Orca will eat leatherback turtles.
Stress and pollution are the primary causes of Fibropapilloma a lethal disease affecting sea turtles. This results in skin tumors, which disturb the turtle's vision, swimming and feeding activity. If caught in time this condition can be cured but if left untreated it will eventually cause death by either further infection or asphyxiation.
Although trade of sea turtles and sea turtle products is prohibited by many cities and countries, things like egg poaching, sea turtle meat consumption, production of ornaments from carapaces (mainly Hawksbill) and production of oil from Leatherbacks still occurs putting the turtle into more danger.
Turtles continue to be popular in many parts of the world for their eggs, their meat, and for their shells and skin.
Destruction of habitat
Human development and pollution in areas where turtles feed or nest means that populations decline. Beachfront construction and changes that cause erosion of beaches can prevent nesting. Dredging and marina development can destroy foraging areas. Turtles are injured by increased boat traffic. Oil drilling and oil transportation can injure or kill turtles and their damage food sources with spills.
Turtles, whales and other marine life often mistake balloons for their natural prey such as jellyfish and squid. Once eaten, balloons block the digestive system of the animals causing death through starvation. Also balloon string and ribbon have resulted in entanglement, injury and death to marine life. For more information, read an article about biologists attempts to ban balloon releases.
Additionally, studies indicate that balloons floating in seawater deteriorate at a very slow rate with some balloons retaining their elasticity after twelve months. However, much is being done to have balloon releases banned under the Environmental Protection Act. The Marine Conservation Society has started the “Don't Let Go!” campaign. Click here to learn more.
Many states such as Connecticut, Tennessee, New York, Texas, California and Virginia have also passed legislation that regulates the release of balloons. For more information, click here.
Disturbance of nesting habitat
Female turtles will not nest on beaches with a great deal of activity. Artificial lights will scare them away from developed beaches. Hatchings become confused by night lighting, and will run towards the lights, rather than the water. Mechanical raking of beaches and off-road vehicle use on beaches can expose or crush nests, and make tire ruts that trap hatchlings. Also, unleashed pets on beaches pose a threat by digging up nests or disturbing a laying female.
Commercial fishing or by-catch
One of the major causes of death for juvenile and adult sea turtles is by-catch. This is an unwanted catch caused by non-targeted fishing techniques. This happens mainly with shrimp trawling. In the South Eastern US region alone by-catch accounts for about 55,000 turtle casualties. Click here for more information on by-catch.
To read about a study that is being done by Watamu Turtle Watch that is attempting to better understand by-catch, click here.