What Is Sea Turtle Conservation?

Lee Johnson

Sea turtle conservation is the process of looking after sea turtles and protecting their natural habitats. Out of the seven species of sea turtles found in the oceans, six of them are classed as endangered or threatened, meaning that the populations are declining to the point of extinction. The purpose of sea turtle conservation is to prevent the sea turtles from dying out, and thus also protect their ecosystems. Sea turtles, for example, graze sea beds and make them more productive in terms of coral growth. Conservation groups aim to introduce legislation preventing the poaching or hunting of sea turtles and to create protected areas.

Sea turtle swimming near a coral reef.
Sea turtle swimming near a coral reef.

The main goal of sea turtle conservation is to prevent the seven different species of sea turtle from becoming extinct. This is done through many different methods, including legislation and international agreements. Sea turtle conservationists have helped to include sea turtles in national laws, such as the United States’ Endangered Species Act, which outlaws any killing, harassment, or harm of sea turtles and their eggs. International agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species also help to prohibit the worldwide selling and buying of endangered species.

Coastal development threatens the existence of the sea turtle.
Coastal development threatens the existence of the sea turtle.

Other goals of sea turtle conservation can be helped along by members of conservation groups. One particularly important task is to educate the public on the threats to sea turtles and what effects their extinction would have on us as humans. Conservationists also fight to prevent people from harming the turtles by establishing refuges. Groups also focus on conducting research into sea turtles and their populations in order to identify where the problems are greatest.

The main factors that sea turtle conservation groups identify as causing problems for sea turtles are fishing, hunting, coastal development, climate change, and pollution. Some fishing methods, such as trawling, catch sea turtles in nets intended to catch other fish. People also hunt sea turtles for their shells and to eat them. Development on the coastlines can affect sea turtles’ natural habitat — damage of the habitat also damages the species. Chemicals in the water affect the sea turtles’ immune systems and make them more prone to illness.

Many people interested in sea turtle conservation focus on teaching the public the ways in which sea turtles help the ecosystem. One issue affecting the oceans is a rise in the population of jellyfish, which affects fisheries and recreational activities throughout the ocean. Sea turtles eat jellyfish, helping to curb their numbers. In addition, sea turtles graze the sea bed and make the land more productive. This means more coral, which is a vital part of the ocean’s ecosystem.

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