Save the Sea Turtles
By: Ella Garbarsky
"Save the turtles" was a phrase that many people used as a joke because of the VSCO girl trend that occurred a few years ago. This phrase more specifically means to save the sea turtles from plastic straws, which many VSCO girls never actually did. They just talked about saving the turtles as a joke. And although people may have found this phrase funny back in 2019, "save the turtles" is a phrase we all need to bring back, but this time in a more serious light.
Focusing primarily on sea turtles, there are only about 1,133,000 left in the wild. More specifically, leatherback sea turtles; one of the largest sea turtle species, are projected to go extinct in about 20 years if humans do not do something about this issue soon.
Before diving into the multitude of issues that sea turtles face today, I am sure most people are wondering why sea turtles even need to be saved. Sea turtles are classified as "keystone species," which means that they are crucial to our environment, and have an important impact on the species around. If a keystone species goes extinct or is eradicated from its environment, it can affect habitats and other animals immensely. Sea turtles are also necessary for a healthy ocean. Sea turtles are a critical part of the ecosystem, and without them, the balance is obstructed. This could pose catastrophic consequences on the ocean.
Specific types of sea turtles help to regulate different factors within our ocean. For example, leatherback sea turtles help to control the population of jellyfish in the ocean. Without leatherback sea turtles, the jellyfish population would spin out of control, and the jellyfish would begin dominating certain oceanic ecosystems. Another example of why turtles are so important is because of the hawksbill turtle, which eats sponges that grow on reefs. This gives the reef more room to grow and expand instead of being covered in sponges, which are bad for the reef and can then impact the ocean’s overall health.
Turtles benefit not only the ocean but our overall environment as well, both inside and outside of the ocean. Green sea turtles graze on seagrass beds, which helps to keep the grass healthy. These grass beds store carbon, which aids in the absorption of the carbon that humans emit so much of into the environment. These seagrass beds also help to feed other sea creatures. Without these green sea turtles, seagrass will perish along with the other aquatic animals that need seagrass to survive (ex: food source, protection, etc.)
Additionally, turtles are vital to the health of our oceans, which in turn makes them vital for the survival of humans. Think about how many food sources come from our oceans, along with medicine, health and hygiene products, and even beauty products. Without a proper aquatic ecosystem —that includes turtles— all of the plentiful resources that humans gain from the ocean would be gone.
But why are turtles in the ocean dying? One of the main reasons why these animals are on the verge of extinction is due to the temperature in our atmosphere; as it determines the gender of the baby turtles when they are still in the egg. Since humans are accelerating climate change, it's occurring at a much faster pace than it should be. Temperatures are rising at an astronomical rate, and warmer temperatures mean more female turtles. More female turtles means fewer male turtles, which means that the turtle population is growing slower. It has been estimated that 90% of sea turtles are female, with only 10% being male. Sea turtles are also affected by the constant flow of plastic and trash that ends up in our oceans. Both of these issues pose a huge threat to the survival of turtles in our oceans.
What can you do to help stop the extinction of sea turtles?
There are many ways that you can help save sea turtles by simply changing small actions in your everyday life. One thing you can do is, whenever you buy seafood (if you buy seafood), ask where and how your seafood was caught to help ensure that sea turtles were not harmed or killed when that seafood was obtained. You can also help and support sea turtle conservation groups by donating money, simply spreading the word about the threats sea turtles are facing, or even volunteering. There are also other ways you can help protect sea turtles and their habitat by reducing waste and the amount of plastic you use on a daily basis. Instead, try to use more reusable products instead of things that must be thrown away after one use. Always fill in holes and knock down sandcastles when you leave the beach because those can become roadblocks for sea turtles trying to exit and enter the ocean to and from the beach. Never abandon fishing gear and always clean up after fishing, as any of the wire, netting, and even hooks can be extremely harmful to sea turtles.
Thus, there are numerous ways that all of us can take part in helping to keep sea turtles from going extinct, but it is going to take all of us to keep these magical creatures alive—not just a few of us who know these incredible turtles are worth saving. Humans and a vast amount of other animals need the sea turtles to survive. A lot of us want to see these sea turtles survive. It simply would not be a proper ocean without these majestic creatures.
(1.) “Why Are Sea Turtles Important - See Turtles.” SEE Turtles.'
(2.) Fisheries, NOAA. “What Can You Do to Save Sea Turtles?” NOAA
(3.) Speyer, James. “How Many Sea Turtles Are Left in Our Oceans?” Xplore Our Planet