Several thousands of sea turtles disappear each year around the world. This is a sobering fact, since 6 of the 7 species of sea turtles are already in danger of extinction. When it comes to environmental deprivation or pollution, humans have a history of acting first and thinking about repercussions later. It is the sad truth that we are to blame for the extinction of entire species, endangering several others, and choking the homeostasis of several ecosystems to death. There is good news, though; we can help prevent the further depreciation of our environment and the many beautiful species we share it with.
1. Reduce the Amount of Garbage You Produce
This one is huge. In the first part of this blog we referenced the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a disgustingly large amount of human generated trash that is floating around the ocean. Simply by bringing your own reusable grocery bags to the store, and saying no to plastic bags, you could make a big difference! You can also reduce other types of plastic that you use. Use reusable food storage containers like Pyrex or Rubbermade, rather than sandwich bags or plastic wrap (the glass containers are a little more expensive, but they will last you longer and are more easily recycled). Sea turtles, and other marine animals, can become entangled in plastic waste on the shore and in the water. Discarded items such as, fishing lines, plastic grocery bags and balloons can also be confused as food and cause fatal health issues. You can also make an effort to pick up trash that others have left behind at the beach. For more info on pollution and marine wildlife see our blog Save the Sea Turtles – Part One.
2. Turn Out Lights Visible From the Beach
When baby sea turtles hatch on the beach, they must find their way back to the ocean, without the help of their mother. They do this by using the light reflections from the moon on the water to guide them to their new home. Artificial lighting confuses the hatchlings and causes them to head inland instead of out to sea, which can be very dangerous for them and greatly diminish their chance of survival. Artificial lights also deter mothers from nesting on certain beaches.
Interesting fact: female sea turtles often lay their eggs on the same beach where they were born, which can be up to 1,500 miles away from their breeding/feeding grounds.
3. Be Aware of Sea Turtle Nesting and Hatching Areas
Sea turtles are interesting and cute, so it is tempting for people to try to interact with them when they cross paths on the shore. However, touching or distracting a mother on her way to make a nest can frighten and disorient her. If you see a mother sea turtle on the beach, let her be so she can lay her eggs and return to the safety of the ocean. Similarly, if you happen to come across a nest or a hatchling, leave them be. Babies have many obstacles to overcome on their journey back to the ocean, the best thing you can do it not make it any harder for them. If you see a baby sea turtle far from the shore, or heading away from the ocean call your local turtle conservancy and let them know. If you’re in our area, contact the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project.
4. Reduce the Amount of Chemicals You Use
The chemicals you use on your lawn and in your home can actually run off into the ocean — killing plants and animals. It is important to properly dispose of chemicals. Even better, try using eco-friendly products that are biodegradable and safe for animals.
If you live in the Cape Fear area, check out how you can help as a volunteer at the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project or the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital. Even if you don’t work for an organization, you can organize a beach clean-up with your friends and family, or simply educate the people you know on how to keep these animals out of danger.
6. Reduce Nighttime Activities at the Beach
The nesting, hatching and the babies journey to the ocean all happen in the middle of the night. This is actually a good thing for the turtles as well as us beach-goers. Since turtles nest during prime summer beach months, there are less threats to the mothers and babies at night when there are less people at the beach. If you do go to the beach at night, try not to make a lot of noise, and keep an eye out for turtles so you don’t scare them away or disorient them. Beach furniture and other beach equipment should be taken down and moved off of the beach at the end of each use. If furniture and equipment such as: cabanas, umbrellas, kayaks, canoes, small boats and beach cycles are left on the beach overnight they can reduce nesting success and increase false crawls on nesting beaches. There is also increasing documentation of nesting females becoming entrapped in beach furniture. Take your stuff off the beach when you leave for the day, or rent and relax with us. We’ll put it up and take it down for you, so all you have to worry about is having a good time at the beach.