The Environmental Magazine: Commentary- The Blue Movement
Wallace J. Nichols Fights for Sea Turtles
Posted on Dec 3rd, 2007
"We are ocean, period. Seventy percent of the world is ocean and eighty percent of global biodiversity is in it. We need to take care of the ocean. No matter where we are, we depend on it."
—Wallace J. Nichols
Wallace J. Nichols does much of his turtle research in Baja California, Mexico.
For at least 150 million years, sea turtles have roamed the Earth's oceans. This makes them at least 858 times older than the first Homo sapiens. Survivors of the mass extinction that wiped dinosaurs out, enduring lengthy travels along the sea and fighting heavy predation that results in survival statistics of about one in a thousand, they have managed to stay around. That is, until now. Out of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, six feature as endangered or critically endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species, a list compiled by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and updated every year with the best available scientific information. Humans bear direct responsibility.
Every stage in a turtle's life is impacted by humans. Eggs are a traditional food believed to increase sexual potency, and are collected from nests in high numbers to satiate consumer demand. Those that survive egg poaching, an illegal activity in most countries, are actively hunted for their meat, skin and shells or captured incidentally by fishing fleets once they reach the adult and sub-adult phase. Trapped in shrimp nets, where they suffocate and drown, or hooked onto long-lines that target tuna, more than 400 thousand sea turtles are captured or injured each year. Adult females, capable of traveling more than 9,000 miles from feeding grounds to their natal beaches for laying eggs, are safe from off-shore fishing but threatened by coastal development. Construction along coastlines hinders nest making and can also affect hatchlings on their journey to sea. Often mistaking lights on coastal infrastructure for the bright horizon, they end up waddling in the wrong direction.