No Place Left to Lay Eggs

What is going on?

Sea turtles are endangered. The seawater is rising and coastlines are eroding, which means there is less room to lay eggs. When it is too busy on a beach, a pregnant sea turtle does not dare to lay her eggs there. And if she does, there is a good chance that the eggs will be taken as food, or that the little turtles will not be able to reach the sea after hatching.

A sea turtle swimming onto a plastic bag © Troy Mayne / WWF

The oceans are also increasingly polluted. Sea turtles suffer a lot from this, because polluted seas are bad for their health. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to this animal. They mistake the plastic for food, eat it, and feel full. Then they stop eating nutritious food and starve.  They also suffocate in plastic waste and get caught in old fishing nets. This causes the animals to drown.

A sea turtle stuck in ghost gear

Why is it important to protect the sea turtle?

Sea turtles may not look like predators, but they often are. They ensure a good balance in the ocean ecosystem. The hawksbill turtle, for example, eats sponge animals, which are animals that can compete with corals. And the leatherback turtle eats jellyfish, which in turn helps to keep fish numbers up. Jellyfish eat the food of small fish such as plankton. Green turtles feed on seagrass and are the gardeners of the sea, keeping the seagrass meadows healthy.

We are working to establish marine protected areas to ensure sea turtles have adequate safe nesting space, safe migration routes, and feeding habitats. We are urging governments to adopt stricter rules. To reduce the bycatch of turtles, we train fishermen in the use of special equipment and so-called circle hooks. Together with partner organizations such as Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire we make people aware of the dangers and consequences of plastic in the oceans by working together with schools. We also work with local groups to find ways to recycle plastic into profitable products. Read more about other WWF projects to protect sea turtles: https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/sea-turtle

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire in action. © Annie Olszewski

The Sea Turtle

The sea turtle is a real go-getter. To lay eggs, the female turtle often swims thousands of miles back to the beach where she herself was born. She knows exactly how to swim there, finding her way is no problem. The moment she lays eggs is the only time the sea turtle leaves the water. She does this for a reason – one sea turtle lays 100 to 200 eggs at a time!

Sea turtles swimming. © WWF-NL / Casper Douma

The temperature of the sand determines whether the young turtles become males or females. When the eggs hatch, the sea turtles crawl independently towards the sea. The sea turtle can become very old: some of these animals can live up to 100 years! There are seven species of sea turtles. Almost all species are fond of sea creatures, except the green sea turtle which is a herbivore.

 

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