So you might realise, we LOVE sea turtles. We’ve donated 75% of our profits to support sea turtle conservation since we launched, and we’ve both volunteered previously with several conservation projects working to save them.
Not only are sea turtles absolutely amazing in their own right, they’re also vitally important for our ocean health. They’ve lived in our oceans for over 100 million years, and having survived the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, they are still in our oceans today. But only just…and their future hangs in the balance.
There are 7 species of sea turtle, and 6 are threatened with extinction.
From a global perspective, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list classifies sea turtle populations as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered depending on the species.
The many threats
Turtles face so many threats to their survival. From the moment they emerge from their nest, the fight for their life begins and will never relent, mostly because of human action.
On nesting beaches, sea turtle populations are often impacted by poaching. Depending on where geographically the nesting beach is, this could be for either the adult turtle (taken for meat or their shells) or their eggs (sold for consumption). In many places, whole populations have simply vanished, as no eggs have remained in the sand long enough to hatch.
Out in the ocean things don’t improve. Young hatchlings are naturally predated by various other species, but those that survive risk becoming bycatch in industrial scale fishing, or the dangers of entanglement in discarded fishing gear.
Pollution from many different sources has turned our pristine oceans to dumping grounds. Take plastic pollution, we’re adding over 8 million tonnes of plastic to our world's oceans each year and many turtles die as a result of ingesting plastic or becoming entangled.
Climate change is also causing its share of problems. Sea level rise threatens nesting beaches by submerging beaches and drowning nests with higher tides.
What’s more, sea turtle sex is determined by temperature, so during the incubation period, whole generations of sea turtles can be influenced by irregular weather, disrupting the natural ratio of male:female hatchlings. As a rule, lower temperatures produce more male hatchlings and higher temps produce more female hatchlings. In more recent years, a general trend of temperatures producing more female hatchlings has been observed. This creates a concern that, with less males, who will fertilise the females eggs when it comes to mating season?
Loss of habitat
As more and more wilderness is lost to rapacious coastal development, nesting beaches are becoming smaller, busier, brighter, noisier or simply vanishing altogether. Imagine a sea turtle arriving to nest, perhaps 15-30 years since she herself hatched in the same area from an empty beach - only to find a landscape defined by hotels, tourists, bright lights, and noise.
Everything seems to be stacked up against sea turtles. But there’s one staggering statistic which puts the cold, sobering reality of these challenges into context. For every 1,000 hatchlings; only 1 will survive to adulthood. It’s now thought that this statistic could even be as high as 1 in every 10,000. That’s why every egg and why every hatchling matters.
Is there a future for sea turtles?
Sometimes I wonder just what the future will hold. Personally, some of the most profound experiences I’ve had in my life so far have happened in the darkness on a nesting beach during sea turtle conservation work.
We’ve watched as sea turtles rise from the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand, and have witnessed the sand around us erupted with the tiny miracle of hundreds of sea turtle hatchlings emerging from their nest. These are scenes which have played out across the beaches of our planet for millions of years. There is something innately prehistoric and almost mythical about these creatures. We’ve helped carefully relocate at risk nests to the safety of a hatchery, watched over their incubation in safety before the hatchlings are released to the ocean as soon as they emerge.
But we’ve seen the darker side too. We’ve seen turtles that have been poached for their meat, eggs lost to the illegal food trade, and watched turtles trying to nest on beaches covered in plastic waste.
We’ve rubbed shoulders with some of the most inspiring people we could think to meet, conservation heroes who refuse to stand by and do nothing. Heroes working against the odds by tirelessly patrolling beaches to save nests or guard nesting turtles, and by recognising the importance of engaging, educating, and empowering local communities toward conservation.
These heroes are regular people, working hard to save sea turtles, and they need our collective support. It’s this support where we think we fit. Where we can take action along our stretch of the North Sea to help keep it clean. We can take awareness of the importance of our oceans and the importance of biodiversity, including sea turtles. And of course, we’ve always used 75% of our profit for good, donating to the projects and people working hard, and by doing so we're joining the fight for a future for sea turtles.