Green Sea Turtles Rally
Stabilizing Green Sea Turtle Numbers
A surf’s ecosystem couldn’t exist without turtles. They’re just too awesome. For a baby sea turtle no bigger than the palm of your hand, a surf’s ecosystem is their entire world, and for them, it’s an arduous journey to the sea. Avoiding birds, raccoons, fish, dogs, and crabs, in their first few minutes of life, they run for the crashing waves. If they survive they’ll spend the rest of their lives battling mysterious plastics, trolling ghost nets, and collisions with boats both big and small. But first things first…
A tiny baby sea turtle’s chances of survival in the first month are 1 in 1000. The fight starts right from the start, and most turtles hatch as instincts tell them so they can hide from everything that wants to eat them: when the stars come out.
Darkness is their only shield from predators. It’s the stars, the lunar light that guides them to the ocean. The moon is their cue guiding them to where they need to go. These ancient creatures have been doing it this way for 150,000,000 years. The slow creatures live for several decades with some species weighing about 100 pounds and others well over 1,000 pounds.
Night Light Confusion
Often getting caught up in debris on beaches like floating trees and seaweed on the way, baby turtles often perish due to the artificial, sparkling night light we produce near the beaches causing fatal results. Many of them go the wrong way since the bright lights compete with the moon and stars: streets, hotels, parking lots, swimming pools.
Now with penalties paid for by The BP Oil Spill, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is installing “turtle-friendly lighting” in beachfront hotels and condo complexes along Florida’s coast, and in many cases, mandated by local law. 90% of America’s sea turtles nest on Florida beaches.
Light pollution has been reduced or eliminated altogether on many priority beaches and in some cases, disorientation has gone from 50% to zero. White lights are now amber and focused on the ground, not the beach. Keeping the ‘little guys’ headed in the right direction giving them that 1 in a thousand chance of getting to healthy turtle adulthood.
We’re Doing Something Right!
While there are 7 species of Sea Turtle, There are seven different species of sea turtles: Green, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, and The Flat Back in which you can find their migratory paths and read about their current numbers here.
Amongst all the contenders The Green Sea Turtle seems to be winning! Breaking free of the endangered list with 1.5 million females worldwide, and as of 2020 – With lengths of 3-5 feet weighing up to 300 pounds, it takes about 2 decades to reach reproductive maturity.
Once hunted for their meat, green sea turtles were designated as an endangered species in 1978, they’re now protected under U.S. law and international treaties. In the 1940’s, there were about 40,000 Green Sea Turtles, mostly in the southern U.S. and Mexico. By the 70s, there were only 1,200 left. The U.S. and Mexican governments changed laws, fishing practices, and set aside dark, quiet areas for turtles to nest. That population is increasing by about 10 to 15 percent annually. Hawaiian green sea turtles, once in trouble 40 years ago, have become a modern-day success story- maybe too much success.
The Sunshine State’s Green Sea Turtle Explosion
Also, Florida’s population of endangered green sea turtles has exploded. Although nesting activity has been recorded in almost every coastal county in Florida, most green turtle nesting is concentrated along the southeast coast of Florida. To view green turtle nest density per beach, see the Statewide Atlas of Sea Turtle Nesting Occurrence and Density.
The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida is among the world’s most significant nesting sites in the 1980s there were dozens of nests. Today there are thousands and counting.
Since Green Sea Turtles take at least 20 years to reach reproductive maturity, this means something really wonderful started changing in the 90s; offspring are coming back to nest and heavily recolonizing.
As dedicated wave-hunters on the lookout for like-minded people to join our tribe while protecting surf ecosystems, we’re curious as to how your local coastal turtle population’s doing, so join our coalition by keeping informed and sign up for our Save The Waves newsletter or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Save the Waves. Save the World.