Help Protect Our Sea Turtles

by Tom Baird
sea turtle conservation

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]arine turtles are some of the most remarkable creatures you may encounter out on the water. Their numbers have declined, and all marine turtles are classified as either threatened or endangered. Five species of marine turtles roam Florida waters. They are the Loggerheads, Green Turtles, the big Leatherbacks, the mostly tropical and solitary Hawksbills, and the smallest and rarest, the Kemp’s Ridley turtle.

While degradation of nesting beaches and near shore habitats, coupled with boat collisions and new predators, have decimated sea turtle populations, losses to fishing gear entanglements take a large toll annually. Whether on shore or on the water, we can all do our part to ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures.

Turtles often mistake floating bits of plastic debris as food and can choke or have fatal internal blockage from ingesting bits of trash. Do not discard trash overboard and be sure to properly remove all trash, especially wrappers and bits of plastic, from the beach or your boat.

Discarded monofilament fishing line is a major threat to marine turtles. Monofilament is non-biodegradable and can remain intact and dangerous in the marine environment for over 600 years. One rescued turtle was recorded ingesting approximately 590 feet of monofilament. Besides ingestion, turtles can become entangled in monofilament leading to drowning if the line gets caught on the sea floor or in gear. Line wrapped around a flipper can lead to infection, loss of the flipper, or death. Proper disposal or recycling of monofilament line can not only save a turtle, but also prevent costly engine repairs from entanglement on the propeller or shaft.

What do you do if you encounter an injured or entangled sea turtle? Turtles with serious cuts, ingested, or deeply embedded hooks need veterinary care. Keep the turtle in the shade and DO NOT transport. Immediately call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). If the turtle is alive, please be prepared to stay with it until help arrives.

These are all just simple things that require little effort and can make a big difference to sea turtle survival.