There are so many threats to sea turtles and all marine species due to human impacts. I wanted to make a video that highlighted some of these impacts and also talked about a bit about my research. I also wanted to blog a bit about some suggestions and tips on how to leave less of an impact on the Earth. I hope you enjoy! And don’t forget to check out this post about how to be an better environmental steward.
Below is a list of some major anthropogenic (human-caused) threats to sea turtles and how you can reduce your impact:
- Consumption and illegal trade of eggs, meat, and shells
This is probably the easiest and most straightforward way to reduce pressure on sea turtle populations… don’t eat turtle eggs/meat and never buy “authentic tourtoiseshell” products. Actually never buy any products containing parts of an animal (even shark tooth necklaces-but the fossilized black ones are okay). Buying these products create a demand that leads to the killing of these animals.
The consumption of turtle meat/eggs is probably more common than you might think. While I was walking around markets in Terrenganu, I came across countless stalls selling turtle eggs. This is mainly consumed by locals, but often time toutists see these for sale and think to themselves “yes-while I am traveling I want to experience as much as possible and try all kinds of new foods” but it is so crucial to consider the larger impact your actions have.
2. Coastal development
Increasing human populations on the coastline interferes with many lifestages of sea turtles. For example, light pollution on beaches is disorienting to nesting monthers and hatchlings. This light can attract the turtles and they will end up heading inland instead of towards the sea. If you live alone the coast near a turtle nesting beach, make sure to switch off your lights, and encourage your neighbors to do so too!
In addition, boatstrikes are a major problem. Since turtles breathe air, they often come to the surface. If you are fishing or recreating, make sure you drive slow and pay attention- especially in areas with a high abundance of turtles.
3. Entanglement in fishing gear
Accidental bycatch is a major issue in our oceans. Approximately 40% of all animals caught in fisheries are discarded as trash, usually dead. Sea turtles, particularly greens, loggerheads, olive ridley’s, and leatherbacks are attracted to the bait and get caught on the hooks or become entangled in the lines and drown. The best way to ensure you are not leading to this issue is to avoid consumption of seafood. There are very few (if any) sustainable fisheries, so the best thing you can do to reduce your impact on marine animals is to avoid seafood all together, or at least reduce consumption.
4. Plastic and other marine debris
In a study recently published, plastic was found in the digestive tract of every sea turtle analyzed. Recently, I did a necropsy of a sea turtle found stranded at KAUST. It was a beautiful hawksbill turtle with over 5 m of fishing line throughout its digestive tract. The line wrapped around it’s flipper so tight that the skin broke, and it went through the turtle’s mouth all the way through its body and out its cloaca. It was horrible. Anyway plastic is a major issue concerning every living entity in the ocean.
The most obvious single-use swaps include bringing a tupperware to take out restaurants, investing in a reusable waterbottle and straw, and bringing a reusable bag everywhere you go.
As many of you might know, I have an actual obsession with Lush Cosmetics. It is on the pricier side but it is so worth it. I will make a separate blog post in the future, but for now, I just suggest you take a peak at their “naked” products- which have no packaging at all. My favorites include the solid deodorant called Aromaco, the solid shampoos are amazing, my favorite is trichnomania, I love the solid soaps, they smell incredible (my faves are this sweet honey soap and outback mate soap. Lastly, the solid facial products are great, such as coalface soap, sleepy cleanser, and amazon primer facial oil. They are incredible I highly recommend. You can bring back five of Lush’s black pots to the store to redeem a fresh face mask. And I also always reduce the other plastic pots, as you can see below.
5. Global warming
My entire Master’s thesis was about how rising temperatures can impact turtles. The temperature determines the sex off hatchlings, so rising nest temperatures lead to more females being born, in some places of the world the sex ratio is already 99% females. The best way to reduce your carbon and methane emissions (which are major global warming contributors), are to be mindful of your meat consumption, and your carbon emissions. Obviously I love to travel (which has a huge carbon footprint) so I have decided to completely cut meat out of my diet, and drastically reduce egg and dairy. I also bike or walk to work everyday and carpool when possible.
Remember that no one is perfect. The actions of a single individual are not enough to save the planet. But if everyone came together to make small changes, we together could have such a positive impact. Please let me know if you have any questions or want to chat about any of the above content. Thanks for reading!