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Hatching Sea Turtles: Ecological Concern for Our Ocean Friends

General, Eco Tips and Environmentswishreboot@solomongiles.comComment

Hello all, What have you seen underwater that has blown your mind? Do you have a great story about an experience with marine life? Tell us here!

I went for a dive the other day with a friend who is a new diver. It was amazing to see her face while she was looking at the marine life and it really made me think about how lucky I was to have seen so much in my life, from whale sharks in Isla Mujeres to Manta Rays in Bali.  One of my favorite things to see is sea turtles! I love the way they glide along in the water. I find it so peaceful.

Green Sea turtle

Green Sea turtle in Akumal, Mexico

I have been lucky enough to do a lot of diving in Akumal, Mexico where turtles are extremely popular.  I recently returned from a trip to Tulum as well where I witnessed hatching sea turtles. An entire nest of baby turtles at night (no pictures sorry, I could not use my flash). I still love seeing these almost pre-historic looking creatures move under and above water. They just seem so wise to me. Maybe it was my childhood obsession with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland in which the Mock Turtle describes a school system to Alice which she cannot even seem to fathom.

Alice in Wonderland Mock Turtle

"We had the best of educations . . . Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of Arithmetic, Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.” --Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

Unfortunately, all seven species of sea turtles are considered endangered on U.S. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants List.

endangered-hatching-sea-turtles

Sea turtles face a fight for survival from the moment they venture out of the sea to lay their eggs. Habitat destruction along coastal areas has made it impossible for certain sea turtles to return to their nesting places. After the eggs are laid, they can fall victim to predators along the beach. After the eggs hatch, the baby turtles must make it safely to the water; a feat which is becoming increasingly difficult as coastal development takes place. The turtles would normally head straight towards the brightest source of light when they hatch, which would naturally be the moon reflected by the ocean.  However, now that coastal regions are intensely developed, the bright lights from nearby cities or resorts can distract the hatchlings are lead them the wrong way.

Once in the water, hatching sea turtles are still in danger from becoming the by catch of long line fishing or trawling. They can also become entangled in marine debris, or choke to death on trash.

Hatching Sea Turtles can end up as by-catch

Photo courtesy of the National Geographic Blog

Due to all these concerns, sea turtles are protected under the NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to interfer with a sea turtle laying it's eggs, or with the eggs themselves of hatching sea turtles.

But is it enough? Despite the immense efforts of a brave few, sea turtles still remain on the endangered list. So what can we do?

If you live in an area with sea turtles, there are great conservation programs that you can dedicate your time or money too. I know in my region there is Centro Ecological Akumal, which has a great sea turtle conservation program.

You can also choose to eat sustainable sea food. Both the Blue Ocean Institute and the IUCN redlist provide a guide to sustainable seafood. If in doubt avoid eating seafood and stick to a more sustainable option.

Anna and a sea turtle friend in Playa del Carmen.

Banner photo credit: thanks to Shino for their photo!