Would the Sea Turtles be Missed?
“Six of the seven sea turtle species are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or greatly endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species (Roach).” These suffering sea turtle species are the following: Reen, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead, and Olive Ridley. All of these turtles are found in the waters off the coasts of the United States of America. The only species of sea turtle that is not in trouble, the Flatback sea turtle, is only found in Australian waters (“Sea”). It is hard to find the exact number of sea turtles since male sea turtles do not come back to the shore once they are hatched. However, the number has decreased by as much as eighty percent in the past twenty years; this is known from the amount of nests found on beaches (“Position”). Sea turtles face many struggles such as being harvested for consumption and illegal sea turtle shell trade. Loss of habitat, oil spills, and climate change are also key challenges that they come across. Yet, their prime problem is bycatch (“Threats”). ““Of all threats sea turtles face right now, bycatch is the most serious,” said Bryan Wallace, a marine biologist with Conservation International (Roach).” Bycatch is the incidental capture of species other than what fishers were intending to catch (“What is Bycatch”). Fishers, commercial and local, should be required to use circle hooks, TEDs (Turtle Excluder Devices), and special lights that do not attract sea turtles when fishing to reduce bycatch of sea turtles.
Though, making these easy switches seem like no big deal, the fishermen and some others tend to get pretty upset about it. Some people in the Mediterranean region of Europe eat sea turtle meat regularly and it would be an awfully large disappointment to them if they were not allowed to anymore. In addition, helping the sea turtles could cost big money for people in the fishing industry. Adding TEDs to all bottom trawls costs anywhere from 40-500 dollars per device (“Preventative”). Also, changing every hook on longlines from a J-hook to a circle hook would take up time that the fishermen are not willing to spend. But, what’s really more important, saving a beneficial, beautiful species, or saving time in a fisher’s day?
Sea turtles have walked the planet and swam in the oceans for over one hundred million years (“Why”). These amazing creatures are air breathing reptiles that “inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world.” Sea turtles can be found off the coast of most any sandy beach on earth. They spend most of their time in the water, however, females return to the beaches about every two years to lay their eggs (“Sea”). The journey to the beaches from their “foraging grounds” is often an extraordinarily long one, reaching somewhere from hundreds to thousands of miles.
Sea turtles are tremendously important to have in the world. Because sea turtles live in the ocean, and on land, they affect both the marine ecosystem as well as the sand dune/beach ecosystem. Unhatched sea turtle eggs are the main source of nutrients for sand dune vegetation. They keep the vegetation’s roots strong which is tremendously important. Strong roots hold the sand in the dunes, and if the roots get too weak, the beaches are more likely to erode. Another reason sea turtles are important is because sea grass is a main part of their diet. Sea grass can be thought of like normal grass; if it isn’t mowed, it doesn’t grow nice and healthy. Without it being eaten regularly, it would stop growing. If sea turtles became extinct, the amount of sea grass would drop drastically. This means that other animals that rely on sea grass as a main part of their diet will have to search for the scarce and scattered plant (“Why”). Without sea turtles, many ecosystems would be negatively affected.
Statistics prove how immense the issue...
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