(SEA TURTLES/OCEAN CONSERVATION) Today, May 23 marks World Turtle Day! Since 2000, World Turtle Day celebrates turtles and tortoises, and brings awareness to their diminishing habitats.

While sea turtles have been around for millions of years, all seven sea turtle species are currently classified as endangered, with some facing extinction. Activists are calling for better protection and conservation efforts, but unfortunately sea turtles face a number of threats, ranging from climate change to poaching.

Read on for more facts about turtles and see how you can help conserve these beloved species. — Global Animal

Approximately 50 percent of sea turtles around the globe ingest plastic. Photo Credit: ShutterStock
Approximately 50 percent of sea turtles around the globe ingest plastic. Photo Credit: ShutterStock

International Business Times

Sea turtles, which have been in existence for more than 100 million years, are under threat. Nearly all seven species worldwide are now classified as endangered, largely because of human activities such as poaching, the destruction of nesting sites and climate change, all of which is pushing turtles ever closer to extinction.

On World Turtle Day, marked on 23 May annually, campaigners are calling for better protection and conservation of the marine animals. So why are sea turtles under threat, and what can we do about it?

Facts about sea turtles

  • Sea turtles live in nearly every ocean basin in the world and nest on beaches.
  • Around 60 days after the eggs are laid, hatchlings emerge and know to make their way to the ocean.
  • They spend almost their whole lives at sea, except when adult females come ashore to nest several times a season every two to five years.
  • The leatherback is the largest sea turtle in the world.
  • According to the WWF, a female leatherback once travelled more than 11,800 miles in a round-trip across the Pacific Ocean, from Papua in Indonesia to the northwestern coast of the United States.
  • Some sea turtles can live for 50 years or more.
  • The creatures feed on anything from seaweed to jellyfish, depending on the species.
Hawaii's beloved green turtle Honu swimming free. Photo Credit: turtletown.com
Hawaii’s beloved green turtle Honu swimming free. Photo Credit: turtletown.com

Shell trade

Turtles have been hunted for their shells, which are used to make jewellery and other items, for centuries. The distinctive, patterned shell of the hawksbill sea turtle means the species is under threat despite the shell trade being illegal. As a result, hawksbills are critically endangered.

Hundreds of turtles are accidentally captured in commercial fishing nets every year, which often leads to drowning. The WWF is working with fisheries to help reduce the number of turtles captured.

Climate change

Our changing climate has a significant impact on a turtle’s life, including the sex of the offspring. The warmer temperatures caused by climate change disrupt the normal sex ratios, resulting in more female hatchlings – which reduces reproductive opportunities and decreases genetic diversity.

Melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels erode the coastal habitats of sea turtles, shrinking the size of their nesting beaches.

The loggerhead sea turtle is just one of the animals benefiting from military assistance. Photo Credit: National Marine Life Center
Loggerhead sea turtles have been endangered since 1978. Photo Credit: National Marine Life Center

Poaching

The international trade in all sea turtle species and their parts is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Despite this, sea turtles are harvested in a unsustainable way for human consumption, as well as the trade of their body parts and eggs as they are a source of food and income in many countries. They are also killed for traditional medicines.

Habitat loss

The destruction of nesting beaches as a result of tourism has had an extremely detrimental impact on turtles. The disturbance of nesting females can cause turtles to stop nesting entirely and return to the ocean. Coral reefs and seagrass beds, which provide feeding habitats for turtles, are being damaged as a result of tourist development, certain fishing techniques, climate change and more.

Keeping beaches clean and avoiding littering is key. Turning off beach lighting can help prevent nesting turtles from becoming disorientated, as nesting turtles and turtle hatchlings are guided by moonlight.

More IB Times: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/world-turtle-day-2016-why-are-sea-turtles-facing-extinction-1560746

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