One Wednesday April 21, 2017 in Vero Beach, FL locals gathered at the beach to watch the largest loggerhead sea turtle to ever be rehabilitated by Sea World, released back into the ocean. Nine months prior to Bertha’s release, this 350 pound turtle was found lethargic and covered in algae at the Tracking Station Park in Vero Beach last August. When she arrived at Sea World’s Rescue and Rehabilitation Program the rescue team found a significant parasite problem in her blood work and many injuries to her front flippers. Bertha was treated with anti-biotics and anti-parasite medication to clear her system. Bertha spent 8 months being nursed back to health at the rehabilitation center and at a young 20 years of age, she will thankfully be able to live the rest of her long life in the ocean where she belongs! This incredible success story has filled our hearts with joy but has opened our eyes to the dangers our precious sea turtles face every day of their lives.
Worldwide, 6 of 7 sea turtle species are classified as endangered due to human actions and lifestyles according to a non-profit organization SEE Turtles. Some of the largest threats these turtles face are oil spills, habitat loss due to human developments, entanglement in marine debris, and trash pollution floating around the ocean. Poor fishing practices are also a huge threat to sea turtles and one of these includes a daunting term called bycatch; when fishing gear captures sea turtles by accident. In 2010, a study by Duke University reported data on marine turtle bycatch for the past 18 years. The university found that approximately 85,000 sea turtles were reported as captured. This study however only took data from a mere 1% of the total fishing fleets around the world. Most likely, the numbers of sea turtles captured from over the 18 years are in the MILLIONS. This heart wrenching study only covers a small percentage of what these poor creatures face daily. Turtles also tend to mistake plastic trash for the food they eat. When ingested, the plastic can block the pathway to their stomachs and starve them, release poisonous toxins, and it can also puncture their intestinal systems all resulting in death. We could go on for days telling you everything these turtles endure but instead, it’s time to learn how we can help save these gentle animals.
Sea turtles are important to the oceans ecosystem. They maintain marine habitats, help cycle nutrients and are part of a well- balanced food web and we as human beings, have the ability to change and improve their lives. Here is how YOU can HELP!
1. Contribute to conservation organizations and rehabilitation centers.
a. These programs need your financial support and depend on donors to fund their incredible cause.
2. Make responsible consumer decisions.
a. Know where your seafood was obtained and how it was caught.
b. For more information check out http://www.seafoodwatch.org/
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
a. Reduce your consumption (purchase products with less packaging).
b. Reuse what you can and recycle what you can.
c. A plastic water bottle is used for 5 minutes and stays on this Earth for another 500 years! One average, our oceans are littered with 47,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. Please people drink from canteens and not plastic bottles!
4. Be a responsible boater
a. Avoid seagrass beds and be aware of your speed.
b. Always looks for floating sea turtles (they cannot dive down to escape an oncoming boat).
c. “Slow and steady wins the race!”
5. Dispose of fishing line properly
a. Pick up fishing line if you see it.
b. Do NOT throw away fishing line in the garbage, place it in the recycling bin instead.
6. Help stop unregulated coastal development and non-sustainable agricultural practices.
a. Sign petitions and encourage legislators to pass and enforce appropriate laws and regulations.
Take action to help save the sea turtles! We have only one ocean and one planet…it’s about time to start taking care of it!
For more information check out these sites below.