Sea turtles play a vital role in nurturing the health of the oceans and have done so for more than 100 million years. As keystone species, sea turtles are critical for flourishing marine food webs. Loggerheads, olive ridleys, leatherbacks, and hawksbill consume prey like jellyfish and sea sponges, allowing coral and lower trophic fish to grow in abundance. Adult green sea turtles graze on sea grasses, acting like a lawn mower that promotes new growth.
Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered or threatened.
Where do turtles live?
A range of coastal habitats around the world.
Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves in tropical regions.
Human activity such as commercial fishing, entanglement and plastic pollution are the biggest threats to sea turtles. Research indicates that over 50% of sea turtles have ingested plastic. Habitat loss and climate change are also pushing sea turtles towards extinction.
Living in the ocean has become a problem for these marine reptiles due to waste, pollution, warming of waters and the destruction of feeding grounds and degradation of breeding sites. Climate change and warming temperatures are directly impacting sea turtle hatchlings by increasing their mortality, as well as the number of female hatchlings produced, impacting the long-term viability of their populations.
In addition, hatchlings in particular are at risk from natural predators. Once hatchlings emerge from their eggs, they can make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of ocean predators.
The demand for sea turtle leather and shell products continues to exist despite the species’ protection under the Endangered Species Act and IUCN Red Listing. The hawksbill sea turtle (currently listed as critically endangered) is especially threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. Poachers kill the turtles for their beautiful tortoise shells and sell them as jewelry or souvenirs.
There are seven different species of sea or marine turtles across the world—loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley, leatherback, flatback, green turtle and Kemp’s ridley. They live in almost every ocean throughout the world and nest on tropical and subtropical beaches. To feed, they migrate long distances and often cross entire oceans, but almost always return to the same beach to nest and lay their eggs. On land, once sea turtles hatch, the egg remains act as fertiliser that preserves sand dunes and prevents coastal erosion.
We work with partners on the ground, such as Australian Seabird Rescue, in their efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles back into the ocean where they belong.
We have provided critical resources including turtle tubs, heaters and scales to assist with rehabilitation and care, and help give injured or sick sea turtles the best chance of survival.
How you can save sea turtles?
As a consumer, you can do small changes to reduce your plastic consumption that could end up in the ocean and impact sea turtles. The most change comes from policies that protect the ocean and everything in it.