World Turtles Day

This June the 15th, we can return oficially to the beaches of Puerto Vallarta. Also in June the turtles return to our beaches. This June the 16th we celebrate World Turtle Day. And in this post we will talk specifically about sea turtles, these cute creatures that have swam in the oceans for more than 150 million years.

(Read this article in Spanish from the authors’s blog)

The Importance of the Sea Turtle

Scientists consider sea turtles to be essential for the health of marine ecosystems, and here are some examples of why:

  • The Hawksbill turtle protects coral reefs by feeding on sea sponges that would otherwise outnumber corals, cover them and kill the reef.
  • Green turtles feed on seagrass beds, promoting faster and healthier growth of the seabed. Seagrass beds are breeding, feeding and home areas for many species of fish and other marine animals.
  • The main source of food for the leatherback turtle is jellyfish. They eat fish larvae and if their population is not controlled, they would cause the reduction of the fish population, which is already under pressure due to overfishing and contamination.

Sea turtles are essential for a healthy ocean.

Plastic and the Sea Turtles

Sea turtles face plastic waste almost every day, both in the ocean and on land. This poses various problems throughout her life:

  • Laying eggs. Sea turtles lay their eggs by digging holes in the sand. Sometimes there is so much plastic on the nesting beaches that the females cannot dig and give up. That female turtles can lay their eggs successfully is crucial to their survival.
  • Trying to find their way. Surely you’ve seen adorable photos of baby turtles crawling into the sea. However, if the beach is littered the baby turtles can become disoriented or trapped. Instead of reaching the ocean, they can die on the beach.
  • Ingesting plastic. Baby and young turtles are more vulnerable to plastic intake because they are less selective than adults with their food. Plastic can injure their internal organs and cause intestinal blockage. This in turn causes malnutrition, reduced growth and death rates. Sea turtles become wiser with age regarding their eating habits but can make mistakes. For example, jellyfish are the favorite food of the Galapagos green turtle. And a plastic bag floating in the sea can look like a jellyfish. If a turtle feeds on bags, they can cause a fatal block.

 

  • Getting Tangled. Another threat they face on a daily basis is the risk of getting caught in trash. Plastic waste is everywhere: on the ocean surface, underwater, and on the beach.

 

Actions to Save Sea Turtles.

Together we can avoid the extinction of the turtles and everything starts from your home:

  • Reduce. Every plastic you don’t buy is one less piece in the ocean. If you stop buying plastics, you will send a signal to companies around the world to reduce their plastic packaging.
  • Avoid single-use plastics. Use a cloth bag for your purchases and opt for reusable paper or steel straws. Watch out for hidden plastics like tea bags, chewing gum, wipes, and “paper” takeaway coffee cups. The latter are usually lined with plastic.
  • Avoid microplastics. Plastic pieces of less than 5 mm in length are called microplastics. They have found them everywhere: from the deepest part of the Mariana Trench to the interior of animals and humans. We still don’t know how harmful microplastics are to humans or animals. They can be made of toxic materials or work as vectors that accumulate and spread toxins, bacteria, and viruses. Do yourself and the ocean a favor and buy products like toothpaste, shampoo, makeup, and conditioners without microplastics.
  • Recycle. Although plastic can cause damage, it is still a valuable resource. Since it is not biodegradable, sort your trash and send your recyclable plastics to give them a new life. In this way it will be reused and its production will be further discouraged.

Thank you! (¡Gracias!)

Bibliography.

  • Lipponen, Matilda, “Cómo Puedes Ayudar a Proteger a las Tortugas Marinas”, March the 26th, 2019. Consulted on June the 16th, 2020 at Projects Abroad.
  • Van der Vliet, Anna, “Look for the Zero, is your best bet”, October the 4th, 2018. Consulted on June the 16th, 2020 at Beat the Micro Bead
  • Weintraub, Karen, “Sí Ingerir unos Fragmentos de Plástico Puede Matar a las Tortugas Marinas” September the 19th, 2018. Consulted on June the 16th, 2020 at NY Times.
  • “Biological, Cultural and Economic Significance” Report. Consulted on June the 16th, 2020 at Panda Org.
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