Six of the seven species of marine turtles are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered, and the outlook is increasingly grim. In the Pacific, leatherbacks are heading for extinction, fast, and in the Mediterranean, green turtle numbers have plummeted.All seven species of marine turtles are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), thus international trade is prohibited amongst the 166 CITES member nations. Three of them are classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN RedList.
Many offspring, few survivors
Marine turtles appear to have the potential to reproduce abundantly: females can lay hundreds of eggs in one nesting season. But even under "natural" conditions, relatively few young turtles survive their first year of life.Predators such as crabs, foxes, and birds often kill the hatchlings as they make their way from the nest to the sea, and when they reach the shallows, many more small turtles are taken by fish. When humans harvest turtle eggs, disturb or degrade nesting beaches, the scales become tipped even more heavily against young turtles.Decades to reach maturityIt takes decades for surviving juveniles to reach maturity and start to breed, and adult turtles must live to reproduce over many years if the population is to thrive. But escalating mortality on the high seas, in the nets and long-lines of fishing fleets, and from pollution and disease, means fewer and fewer turtles are living long enough to reproduce.Protection vital at all stages of the life cycle. Effective conservation means protecting turtles at all stages of their life cycle. Protecting nesting beaches calls for action at the local level, and protecting juvenile and adult turtles in oceanic waters calls for enforceable international agreements.
It can work: in the Gulf of Mexico thirty years of conservation is helping Kemp's ridley turtle to make a slow comeback. For other species, however, time is running out.
The objectives of WWF's Global Marine Turtle Programme are to reduce:
1. the loss and degradation of critical marine turtle habitats;
2. the negative impact of bycatch on marine turtles;
3. unsustainable use and illegal trade in marine turtles and turtle products.
To reach these objectives, WWF is working around the world to conserve marine turtles by:
1. Establishing and strengthening protected areas around nesting beaches
2. Raising awareness and promoting ecotourism at marine turtle sites, so that local communities become involved in and benefit from protecting turtles and their nests
3. Promoting regional and international agreements to conserve marine turtles.
4. Lobbying for turtle-friendly fishing practices, such as the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in nets.
5. Halting the illegal trade of turtle meat and eggs, though TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring arm of WWF and IUCN.
A live turtle is worth more than a dead turtle
Marine turtles are economically important to humans. Coastal communities in developing countries use marine turtles as a source for food. Also, the catch of fish and invertebrates that are used for human consumption or commerce ultimately depend on healthy marine turtle populations.In recent years, marine turtles have become increasingly important as an ecotourism attraction. This has led to a rise in tourism operations that in turn provide jobs and income to seaside communities throughout the tropical and subtropical part of the world. Marine turtle watching increases people's interest in marine and coastal issues and inspires commitment to support conservation efforts. Marine turtles are flagship species that attract help to themselves as well as to the many species with which they co-exist.
Click here to listen to the interview with Samantha Vine from WWF.
Symbolically adopting a turtle will help the WWF with their work. Click here to adopt now.
To find out more about the WWF, please visit http://www.worldwildlife.org/