The 16th of June marks World Sea Turtle Day – a day where we get the chance to appreciate these amazing creatures, find out more about them and learn how we can make changes to help their species.
For over 100 million years sea turtles have travelled vast distances; they spend the majority of their lives in the water, only coming ashore to breed.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the earliest known sea turtle fossils are actually around 150 million years old.
These magnificent creatures play a fundamental role in marine ecosystems by helping to maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs, but they are now considered to be endangered.
Sadly, according to National Geographic, six out of the seven species of sea turtles are classified as threatened, endangered or critically endangered, which is mostly due to human impact.
They are poached for their eggs, meat, skin and shells and suffer from over-exploitation, or they even fall victim to bycatching (accidentally being captured in fishing gear). The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believe that 8 million tonnes of plastic are being dumped in the oceans every year, meaning sea turtles’ habitats are being destroyed as pollution wracks the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, climate change has impacted nesting sites by altering sand temperatures, which affects the outcome of the hatchlings’ sex.
WWF are working hard to help these endangered animals by working with the local communities to reduce turtle harvesting and egg collection. They have been supporting a campaign led by TRAFFIC to combat illegal trade and to reduce demand in China.
The charity have been studying how climate change has affected the turtles and trying to work with communities to monitor and protect nesting beaches. They also tag sea turtles to allow researchers to track where they swim and to understand migration patterns.
How can you make a difference?
Contact your elected council or political representatives (or potential candidates) to enquire about what their beliefs and actions are for the safeguarding of sea turtles. You always have a voice and can use it.
Parents, guardians and teachers can educate young people in a fun way, inspiring them to think about their impact on the world around them. Look up events for World Sea Turtle Day on 16 June which can help us to learn more while still having fun.
When travelling, search for eco-friendly hotels that are committed to protecting local animals. Here at Charistay, you’ll soon be able to book with our partners who are passionate about protecting the land and wildlife around them. Until then, make sure you check out a hotel’s website to see what they’re doing to help. When looking for things to do while you’re away, try to avoid any tour operator or excursion that involves touching, holding or swimming with turtles or other wild creatures. While getting a photo taken with a cute or dangerous animal might seem Instagram worthy, not only is it stressful for the creature but it also creates a demand for this type of cruelty to continue. Also, choose restaurants that don’t serve turtle or other endangered creatures on their menu.
If you’re looking for ways to support from home, take a look at WWF’s Pledge for Our Planet which includes committing to reducing your carbon footprint where you can. This could be monitoring the electricity you use, reducing the amount of fossil fuels you use and reducing food waste at home. It can also mean you make more conscious efforts when shopping to buy from sustainable fishing practices by purchasing items with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label.
Finally, many organisations have programmes that allow you to adopt a sea turtle. One of the biggest charities to do this is WWF but many smaller groups also offer similar opportunities. If you’re visiting an area that has sea turtles, why don’t you check out one of the local programmes and see what you can do to help – not only will it help the local community protect the turtle population, but it’ll also give you lasting memories of your trip!
environment, sealife, sustainability, sustainable travel, United Nations, wildlife