Sea Turtle Protection Policies

Cara Piergiovanni

What is endangered?

According to the World Conservation Union, green sea turtles are endangered.  Hawksbills and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are critically endangered, while leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles are vulnerable. Generally, many species of sea turtles are suffering. 

What is causing this?

Two causes of these decreasing population numbers are poaching and the exploitation of eggs and shells. Their habitats are suffering as well, which leads to declining health and bycatch. Bycatch is the term used when sea turtles get caught in fishing nets. Additionally,  trash and plastic in the ocean can be mistaken for jellyfish and cause adverse health effects. 

What protection acts have been passed?

The Endangered Species Act passed in 1973 protects sea turtles and their habitats in the United States. Sea turtles are migratory creatures, so they are protected internationally by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prevents the catching, selling, and buying of sea turtles and sea turtle products. Countries have collaborated to reduce bycatch and create “marine protected areas”. 

More locally known in the United States, is the Florida Marine Protection Act which protects all five species of sea turtles residing in their waters. This act prohibits individuals from taking, disturbing, harming, selling, or moving marine turtles, nests, and eggs. This protection extends to their habitat and environment. 

Why are sea turtles important?

They maintain the ecosystem of the ocean from reefs to seagrass, which provides homes and food to many creatures who help to balance the food cycle. Sea turtles perform a vital role in maintaining nutrient cycles from the ocean to the coasts. Turtles are one of the few species that move between land and sea.

Sources: Florida Fish and Wildlife, Loggerhead Marine Life Center, Oceana, Sea Turtle Conservancy