The turtle struggles in vain to pull its head back but the man has it firmly in his grasp. His knife slices through the exposed neck and a fountain of blood spills over the gravel road. I witnessed this a few years ago – the slaughter and butchering of a sea turtle. And it made me determined to help these little guys. Since then I’ve dedicated a month or two each year to working on Sea Turtle Protection, and I’ve been lucky to work with some great turtle people, including Michael Carey.
Today turtles are in crisis. And here’s why. A typical sea turtle will lay around 100 eggs in a nesting, and historically about 10 of these would make it back to lay eggs themselves. But today, just a single one on average will make it to breeding age! The survival rate of young sea turtles has gone into free-fall.
In some ways a perfect storm is now engulfing Sea Turtles. So many things are amassing against them, and most of them man-made. Here are a few:
1) Hunting of sea turtles but with outboard engines allowing hunters to kill them further offshore and more effectively
2) Increased poaching of turtle eggs by humans
3) Increased presence of dogs and pigs on nesting beaches that raid turtle nests
4) Nesting beach destruction through coastal resorts, developments, and sand mining operations
5) Nest destruction though presence of vehicles and horses on nesting beaches
6) Increased light fixtures on nesting beaches confusing hatchlings and they head up the beach rather than towards the water
7) By-catch in gill nets, especially when placed near nesting beaches
8) By catch in trawlers that do not run Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs)
9) By catch on long lines
10) Trapped in marine debris including discarded fishing gear
11) Very vulnerable to surface hydrocarbons from oil wells and fuel leaks
12) Some turtles eat jellyfish, but mistakenly are eating plastic materials which binds in their intestines and they die of starvation
13) The herpes virus is killing large numbers of green turtles in the Caribbean
14) Climate change is giving warmer sand temperatures which skews the hatchlings to be mostly female and few males (sand temperature determines sex).
The future of sea turtles is now bleak, and if we don’t act quickly, some species will be lost forever. Already the Pacific Leatherback is destined for extinction. Breeding numbers are so low that the few remaining females struggle to find mates, and beaches that once teemed with turtle nests now lie barren. Populations of most sea turtles remain in rapid decline.
But there is something we can do about this. One of the things we can influence is turtle hunting. Today there are over 40 different countries that still allow it. Trinidad and Tobago used to be one of them. A team of us went there in 2012 and by working with the government, Schools, media, fishermen and a local conservation group (Trini Eco Warriors ), we were able to get the law changed to ban the hunting of turtles.
We’re now looking to engage with the rest of the countries that still allow hunting. But before we go there we need some ammunition. And this is where you come in. Linked with the video is a petition to the governments of these countries asking them to ban hunting of turtles and the trade in turtle product.
I need you to sign this now, and I’ll make sure it gets to the right people in each of these countries. There’s lots of others things to be done to save sea turtles, and I’ll be coming back to you with some of those in the future.
In the meantime, sign this petition and lets get started. Here is the link http://www.takepart.com/video/2014/09/15/heres-how-you-can-save-endangered-sea-turtles-poachers