There are many species of turtle including loggerheads, green sea, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, flatback and Olive ridley. Many are ‘ocean lawnmowers’ that eat seagrass, but giant leatherback turtles love searching for jellyfish in colder waters. But a third of all sea turtles now have plastic in their stomach, which is affecting their swims back to the beaches where they were born (to give birth).
Sea turtles often eat balloons that look like jellyfish – so never release them in the air, as there is a 70% chance of them landing in the sea – if they land on farms, they cause belly ulcers in cattle). Photographer Jordi Chias quickly took 25 snaps of a sea turtle trapped (likely for days) in fishing net while sailing with friends in Spain, then spent 20 minutes unknotting the creature that was extending its neck to pierce the water surface, to breathe. Thankfully it swam away from them very quickly. Shane Gross’ photo of a dead turtle trapped in fishing net also brough the issue to worldwide attention (after taking the photo, he and his girlfriend tried to bury the sea turtle in the sand, to show respect).
- Give up plastic straws. This video of a marine biologist removing a plastic straw from a turtle went viral a few years ago, and was the beginning of the end for plastic straws. The turtle was okay in the end – but distressed. And nobody knew if the turtle ever came across another straw, after release.
- If you eat fish, only choose companies that guarantee no by-catch (LED nets that light up nets so fishermen can see them and turtle excluder devices help, but leatherbacks are too big to escape). ASDA admits some best-selling fish items kill by-catch creatures including turtles. They have no yet joined Ocean Disclosure Project, which is helping to stop by-catch. Shrimp trawlers often dredge the ocean bottom, trapping sea turtles.
- LED nets (light up nets so fishermen can see them) and turtle excluder devices help, but they don’t work for all (leatherbacks are too big to escape).
- Shrimp trawlers often dredge the entire ocean bottom, trapping sea turtles. If you eat shrimp, look for plant-based alternatives.
- Turn off unnecessary lights. Abroad, light pollution is causing turtles (who follow the moon to give birth) to cross roads and head towards multi-storey car parks, instead of the beach.
a paradise (ruined) for sea turtles
Milman Island is a beautiful tropical island with no human inhabitants near Australia, in the Pacific Ocean. With white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, it should be a paradise for the only creatures that live there – sea turtles. But one campaigner visited to find a horrendous amount of plastic and other rubbish that had washed up on the shores. She detailed in her survey:
- A dishwashing machine cover
- Gas tanks
- Windshield wipers
- Toy cars
- Pieces of polystyrene foam (some had tiny bite marks, indicating that the sea turtles had tried to eat it)
- A bedpan
- Industrial rubber
- Large fishing nets
- Light bulbs
- Shards of plastic
- Cigarette lighters
don’t buy tortoiseshell (or turtle shell)
Turtle Foundation asks everyone not to buy shells from either species, a common ‘souvenir’ used in combs, spectacles and jewellery. Although illegal in many parts of the world, turtles are still hunted by fishermen for their shells. Join the campaign to protect these beautiful creatures in the waters of Indonesia and elsewhere. Often called ‘Carey’ (Spanish name for hawksbill sea turtle) – if it resembles tortoisehell, don’t buy it.