|Biological Diversity 2001|
This image courtesy of SEMARNAT
Swimming green sea turtle
Turtle Survival League-Caribbean Conservation
Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles
sea turtles inhabit temperate and tropical waters in Central America,
the Bahamas and the United States
(To see a map of green turtle ranges: www.cccturtle.org/green.htm
. It is rare to find a green turtle in the open ocean and they generally
live in waters near the coast, near islands, or in protected bays (Caribbean
Conservation Corporation, 1996) . They average 3.3 feet in length and
weigh approximately 375 pounds (SeaTurtle.org, Inc., 1999). Their protective
shell is made of three parts; the carapace (upper portion), the plastron
(lower portion), and the scutes (scales). Green sea turtles have an excellent
sense of smell, but become very nearsighted when they leave the water
(Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996) .
The 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Listed as Endangered. The Population experienced a reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or three generations based on direct observation. The reasons might be due to the on the effects of introduced taxa, hybridization, pathogens, pollutants, competitors or parasites. But in Mediterranean sub-population, it is listed as Critically Endangered.
CITES: All the species of Cheloniidae are listed on Appendix 1.
sea turtles face a number of natural predators, such as raccoons, ants
and crabs while in the nest, birds and crabs as free-swimming hatchlings,
and occasionally even sharks once fully grown, green sea turtles are not
becoming extinct due to these natural threats. Humans play the largest
role in the extinction of these ancient, endangered animals (Caribbean
Conservation Corporation, 1996; World Wildlife Fund, 2001). The greatest
threats green sea turtles face are harvesting of their eggs by poachers
and the selling of adult sea turtle meat and turtle parts as jewelry.
In many tropical countries and southern portions of the United States
where green turtles nest people still harvest the eggs of sea turtles
for consumption(Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996; World Wildlife
Fund, 2001). In these same areas, the meat of adult sea turtles is sold
as a delicacy. Jewelry made out of turtle parts and entire stuffed turtles
are often sold to tourists around the Caribbean. These practices continue
on a regular basis despite strict laws prohibiting the buying and selling
of sea turtles in the U.S. and countries which contain sea turtle habitat
(Caribbean Conservation Corporation,1996; National Marine Fisheries Service,
also has a great impact on the decreased survival of sea turtles. The
west Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico are both important habitat
for turtles. Yet they are also the major shrimping grounds in the United
States. While US shrimpers are now required to include Turtle Excluder
Devices (TEDs) in their nets, unfortunately not all fishermen comply and
thousands of sea turtles become entangled and often drown in shrimp nets
every year (Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996; National Marine
Fisheries Service, 2001). However, it is not only shrimp fishermen who
are guilty of endangering sea turtles. Japanese tuna longline fisheries,
hook and line fishing (which catch and harm coastal species), and pound
net fisheries off the coast of Virginia, are all sources of endangerment
for green sea turtles. In recreational areas where water traffic is great,
sea turtles can also be injured due to collisions with ship propellers
(Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996; National Marine Fisheries Service,
major reason sea turtles continue to be endangered is due to human pollution.
Non-degradable trash, including balloons, bottles, vinyl films, styrofoam,
twine, and especially plastic bags are deadly to turtles. They often mistake
floating plastic bags to be floating jellyfish, a staple of their diet
(Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996). The effects of oil spills,
chemical runoff, and fertilizers are also extremely negative as they disrupt
the respiration, blood chemistry, skin, and salt gland functions of the
sea turtles (Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996; National Marine
Fisheries Service, 2001). There is evidence now suggesting that fibropapillomas,
a disease killing many sea turtles, could be connected to pollution in
the oceans (Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996; Turtle Trax, 2001).
Pollution also kills off the aquatic plant life green sea turtles rely
on for nourishment (Caribbean Conservation Corporation, 1996).
with all of these other sources of human-induced endangering of sea turtles,
are the repercussions of human development. Artificial lighting from coastal
developments not only disturb females from nesting, but also disorient
new hatchlings, causing them to migrate inland and have a greater chance
of dying due to predation or dehydration (Caribbean Conservation Corporation,
1996; National Marine Fisheries Service, 2001). Coastal armoring, including
sea walls, sandbags, and rock revetments, along with beach nourishment,
an alternative to coastal armoring also meant to prevent the beach from
eroding, can both seriously negatively impact sea turtles by either blocking
female turtles from their nesting habitat and altering nesting habitat.
If beach nourishment occurs during nesting season, it is possible for
nests to be either buried too far beneath the surface for individuals
to survive, or the nests can be crushed by the heavy machinery used (Caribbean
Conservation Corporation, 1996; National Marine Fisheries Service, 2001).
If the sediments used in nourishment is extremely different from the original
beach sand, nest-site selection, incubation temperature, and the moisture
content of nests can also be adversely affected (Caribbean Conservation
Corporation, 1996). Also, with an increase in human use of a nesting beach,
the nighttime disturbance of nesting females, the use of off-road vehicles
and repeated mechanical raking of nesting beaches which cause sand compaction,
and the placement of physical obstacles on beaches can create serious
problems for hatchlings and nesting females alike (Caribbean Conservation
Corporation, 1996; National Marine Fisheries Service, 2001).
order to protect green sea turtles, countries will have to cooperate on
an international level. Feeding and nesting grounds must be protected,
the laws that are already exist to protect sea turtles must be enforced,
education about wildlife conservation must become more widespread, and
international agreements regarding pollution levels, fishing and coastal
development levels must be created and carried out.
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Melissa Breck, Jennifer Malley, and Sangmi Choung