Sea turtles – facts and issues

Sea turtles facts and issues

Photo by Dominique Nelson-Esch from Pexels

World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated on 16th June. Here are some facts and issues about sea turtles.

Sea turtles have existed on Earth for the last 100 million years. 

Their size could range from 70 cm to 180 cm, their weight from 40 kg to 500 kg!

They have one of the longest lifespans in the animal kingdom, researchers think some turtles could even be hundreds of years old.

They are big travellers and can migrate long distances, although females prefer to nest every year on the same beach.

The carapace is the upper shell of the turtle. The inner layer of the shell has about 60 bones that include portions of the backbone and the ribs, meaning the turtle cannot crawl out of its shell.

Six out of seven species of marine turtle are threatened with extinction due to human actions and lifestyle. 

Photos by Jolo Diaz from Pexels

How people are affecting the life of sea turtles?

  • One in two sea turtles has ingested plastic – often mistaking it for food such as jellyfish. Plastic pollution is the biggest treat for them.
  • 1 in 1,000 marine turtle eggs survives to adulthood. With beaches full of litter and coastal development it is harder for turtles to nest and for hatchlings (Baby turtles) to reach the sea.
  • Turtle eggs and meat are traded illegally. 
  • They get trapped in nets, plastic injuring them.
  • Global warming: rising sea levels can erode nesting beaches; Increasing temperatures determines the birth of more females instead of an equal proportion of males / females and cause coral bleaching that is the habitat for hawksbill turtles.
  • Turtleshell Trade: People use Hawksbill turtle shells as decorations or turn them into products like jewellery and other crafts.
  • Accidental capture: ‘bycatch’ in fishing gear.

Not only are sea turtles in danger, but also tortoises. The Pinta giant tortoise of the Galápagos became extinct in 2012 with the death of world-famous tortoise Lonesome George.

What Can You Do to Save Sea Turtles?

Learn what actions you can take to help save sea turtles by clicking on the link above.

If you live in an urban area far from the sea you could just be more mindful. Do thorough plastic recycling at home and try to avoid buying single-use plastics.

Your synthetic clothes also release microplastics when washed in the washing machine so it is better if you get a filter or a Guppyfriend bag.

The use of chemical products harm marine sea life so you could ditch detergents in your home or self-care products. You can use eco alternatives by making your own toothpaste or lemon and vinegar detergent just as Ludo often does.

Let’s make an origami turtle!

So, these are even better if you use old magazines or other bits of unused paper as Ludo has done.

[References: https://www.seeturtles.org/sea-turtles-threats https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/sea-turtle
The Turtle Extinction Crisis]

An Ocean full of microplastics!

UN environment programme animation on how microplastics affect our health

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated that between 15% and 31% of all plastic pollution comes from microplastics. So, we now have an ocean full of microplastics. Some research estimates that every week we eat the amount in weight of a credit card of microplastics. It is also raining down on us from the clouds even here in cities like London. How is this possible?

Microfibres and the food chain

An ocean full of microplastics. Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

Synthetic microfibres, which clothing releases during every wash, account for roughly a third of plastic in the ocean. They are so tiny that they can seem like food for zooplankton. These are microscopic living organisms which drift or float in water. One of them is called krill and is a tiny shrimp-like crustacean which lives in cold seas. Some of the zooplankton eat algae but due to the ingestion of microfibres they are no longer able to digest it. These animals are at the base of the food chain in the ocean, bigger zooplankton, fish and marine mammals like whales eat them. So, we shouldn’t be surprised if they might end up on our dinner plate.

An ocean full of microplastics. Photo by Silvana Palacios from Pexels

Photo by Silvana Palacios from Pexels

What can we do in order not to have an ocean full of microplastics?

Buy less, buy better

Buying fewer clothes and fewer new clothes is still a good aim for the environment as the fashion industry is a big polluter. Stop wearing man-made fibres is also better so check the label before buying any new item.

Some brands like Fjallraven and Patagonia are trying to reduce the number of microfibres in their products. Some other companies or small start-ups are now producing clothes made from recycled plastic. Patagonia actually started using recycled plastic bottles to make their garments back in 1993. Since 1985 they have pledged 1% of their sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment!

Also, manufacturers make many other items out of synthetic fibres like cushions, carpets, bags, dog beds or even sheets and covers. So, be mindful about what you buy and see if you can find items by manufacturers which make them more sustainably.

Washing machine

An ocean full of microplastics. Guppyfriend bag for your laundry

Guppyfriend bag for you laundry

Ludo bought a Guppyfriend bag to put her synthetic clothes in or you can get a filter to catch the microfibres in the washing machine. Hopefully, in the future, these filters will be compulsory for new machines. There is one which Mermaids developed, through a project funded by the EU. You can wash clothes less frequently and on shorter washes. Also, at lower temperatures and make sure your washing machine is full. Clothes in full machines get agitated less and therefore shed fewer fibres.

Microbeads

An ocean full of microplastics. MPCA Photos

MPCA Photos microbeads-plastic-particles

Microbeads are manufactured solid plastic particles of less than one millimetre at their largest dimension. Tiny beads of plastics are contained in some toothpastes, sun cream, make-up, face and hand wash and body scrub. When you wash after using these products the small beads go down the drain and in the end, they reach rivers and waterways. The beads can absorb and concentrate pollutants like pesticides. Animals still eat them thinking they are food.

In some countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Taiwan they have banned their use and some brands have stopped using them in their products. The UK approved the ban in June 2018. So, if you still find a product which includes microbeads please report it to the owner of the shop so they can take them off the shelves.

[Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbead and “How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time” by Will McCallum]