The Ocean’s Most Vulnerable ‘Sea Turtle’ Species Racing Towards Extinction – Report

According to a recent report, some of the most vulnerable Sea Turtle species may be on the cusp of extinction if existing commercial fishing practices persist. Amongst the seven living turtle species on the planet, Loggerhead, Green and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are thought to more susceptible to fishery-related deaths owing to their extensive breeding and nesting locations, as well as their precariously declining numbers. For instance, every year more than 50,000 sea turtles reportedly perish in the south-eastern waters of the United States.

Loggerhead Turtles, one of the larger and slower-growing sea turtle species, are typically found in the mild and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. In the United States, the southern Florida coastline is believed to be a sanctuary for one of the largest loggerhead turtle nesting colonies on the planet. Owing to their consistently dwindling population, they have been classified as ‘critically endangered’ and are almost at the very edge of extinction.

Statistically, the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle, and with a global female nesting population of approximately 1,000, the fate of these magnificent sea creatures appears nothing short of bleak. Their ostensibly delicate existence may be attributed primarily to staggering amounts of “over-harvesting of their eggs.”

Green Turtle (Image via Shutterstock) Green Sea Turtle [Image via Shutterstock]The Green Turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. According to estimates, during the last century or so, a host of factors have threatened their population leading to a stupefying 67 percent drop in their overall numbers. Population levels have thereafter descended to unprecedented levels. These observations are strikingly problematic from an ecological perspective given the Green Turtle’s enormous significance and influence on the diversity of marine ecosystems.

Sea turtles have been roaming the oceans since primordial times, having endured deadly predatory confrontations, climatic change and mass extinction events. Their survival has an incontrovertible bearing on the ecological fate of the oceans around the world. These fascinating creatures often fall victim to harmful fishing practices despite not being the originally intended target.

According to recent U.S. study, within the United States, six species of sea turtles are listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These are Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Sea Turtles, Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, Leatherback Sea Turtles, Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. The study also expounds on the mainly ecological as well as the economic and cultural significance of these fascinating ocean dwellers.

“Sea turtles are a cornerstone of healthy oceans and play a critical part in both marine and terrestrial environments. They play an important role in the nutrient cycle on land, particularly during nesting season, by moving organic compounds from foraging grounds – where they feed in the ocean – to nutrient-poor coastal habitats near nesting beaches. This transport supports the growth of plants and animals in coastal habitats’.

According to the study, a variety of factors have led to the decline of sea turtle populations and the necessity for ESA listings. Industrial innovations in equipment, modern navigation and sophisticated vessel capabilities have drastically exposed Sea Turtle populations to the immense perils of commercial fishing. Some of the seemingly secondary but equally menacing threats are from industrial waste, ocean pollution, coastal infrastructure development, unlawful hunting, accidents and climate change.

Overall, there are seven species of sea turtles, classified as “marine reptiles” that rely essentially on air to survive. Six of the seven species are found in U.S. waters, with the exception of the ‘flat-back’ turtle, which is only found in the Western Indo-Pacific.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) Hawksbill Sea Turtle [Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images]For years, sea-turtle conservationists have advocated safe and responsible fishing practices and habitat conservation with some of the measures progressively bearing fruit. However, an exceedingly large number of Sea Turtle species are still likely to confront the grim prospect of extinction, particularly in the absence of more stringent and sweeping protection measures employed to guarantee the safety of their potentially endangered habitats.

[Image via Shutterstock]