With a one in 1,000 survival rate, you could call sea turtles the ocean’s underdogs. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that these creatures are a living, breathing link to our past and a safeguard to our future. They’ve existed since the time of dinosaurs and today, their role remains as a keystone species that is critical to a thriving ocean ecosystem. But with threats of climate change, polluted beaches and oceans, and careless fishing practices on the rise, it’s clear these ancient icons need our help to survive.
Fun Facts About Sea Turtles
Sea turtles have just a one in 1,000 survival rate, due to natural predators and human impact. Of the seven sea turtle species in the world, six of them nest in the United States, and all six are classified as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Sea turtles like the leatherback feed on jellyfish and thus are critical in helping keep jellyfish populations down. This not only results in lower jellyfish encounters for us humans on our beach getaways, but also leaves plenty of fish in the sea for humans and jellies alike to consume.
The temperature of a sea turtle nest determines the sex of baby hatchlings. Warmer temperatures result in more females, cooler means more males. Because of this, climate change can have devastating effects on sea turtle populations, due to a surplus of females unable to find mates to reproduce with.
It’s estimated that sea turtles have been present on the plant for 110 million years, meaning at one point, they coexisted with dinosaurs! What’s even more amazing is that they have changed very little during this entire existence. Preserving these ancient creatures is critical in a world where more and more species are facing population declines, endangerment, and extinction.
5 ways YOU can help save the sea turtles
Now that you have the facts, help preserve these ancient species today!
1) Say NO to plastics
Harmful plastics that end up in the ocean often get eaten by sea turtles mistaking them for jellyfish. According to researchers, over half of sea turtles have ingested plastic at some point in their lives, and microplastics on beaches have a detrimental effect on nest success too. Cut out plastic by using reusable bags, utensils and other products whenever possible.
2) Clean up trash you see on the beach
Over 1,000 sea turtles die each year from consuming plastic. Help lower this statistic by doing a beach cleanup. Want some company on your cleanup? Check out local organizations and area event calendars, or host your own beach cleanup day with friends and family!
3) Choose responsibly caught seafood
Commercial fisheries have been detrimental to the sea turtle population. At one point they had wiped out the Pacific leatherback population by 95%. This industry is the biggest threat to sea turtles and many other aquatic species. Most are caught as bycatch, which means they are caught unintentionally while fisheries are looking to harvest a specific species. When eating seafood, do your research to ensure what you consume was caught responsibly and sustainably.
4) Minimize beach lighting & be cautious of nesting areas
Female sea turtles nest in dark, quiet beaches, and when baby hatchlings emerge from their nest at night, they use the moon as guidance to the ocean. Any artificial light can misdirect turtles during these critical life stages and put them in dangerous situations. Be cautious and respectful while on nesting beaches, and in the evening, avoid using any flashlights, flash photography, or other means of artificial lighting.
5) Volunteer & Help Sea Turtles With Ecology Project International
Together, we can help save sea turtles! At Ecology Project International (EPI), we engage local communities in youth development, leadership, habitat conservation, and we run world-class, science-focused travel programs for students and teachers. Together, we're building a brighter, more sustainable future.
Here is how we empower YOU to save the turtles:
Donate: Your donation can support a single baby hatchling, an entire sea turtle nest, or even the hatchery and staff that house and protect these creatures. EPI staff, research assistants, visitors and volunteers work around-the-clock each and every day to protect sea turtles, and the results show for it. In 2021, EPI efforts protected more than 53,000 baby sea turtle eggs! Learn more about the work we’re doing and what your donation can protect here.
Travel programs: EPI’s Sea Turtle Ecology program for students and teachers allows participants to work alongside researchers collecting data and protecting sea turtles nests and baby hatchlings. Pacuare Reserve, the sea turtle nesting site stewarded by EPI, also hosts adults and families who want to participate in these activities and stay in The Reserve’s lodging.
Volunteer: As a nonprofit organization with limited resources, research assistants and volunteers are a vital part of our existence. As a volunteer, you’ll assist in our long-term wildlife monitoring projects and help take care of The Reserve itself. While there’s no experience necessary to volunteer, Pacuare Reserve is in a remote location with limited access to electricity and oftentimes hot, humid weather conditions, so it’s recommended you assess your physical condition before committing to a visit.
Research and Internships: EPI offers many opportunities for those with science-based educational backgrounds and interests. These are incredible opportunities to gain hands-on experience with sea turtles while working alongside experts and other passionate participants from around the world.
Help preserve these resilient ocean underdogs today!
The Sea Turtle Hatcheries of Pacuare Reserve