Protecting Loggerhead Sea Turtles for Generations to Come
In July 2002, on Cocoa Beach, Florida, a morning workout with my mom turned into being crossing guards for a line of newly hatched sea turtles. My mom and I simply watched in silence as the tiny creatures waddled out of their nest, scurrying across the sand, and into the low tide. It took all my strength not to run after their five-inch shells and place the reptiles safely into the water.
Even if I wanted to, I can’t sit on the beaches and wait for every clutch to hatch, but in a matter of seconds today, I was able to take action to help strengthen the level of protection for one particular species of sea turtles.
The Current Conditions for Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Loggerhead sea turtles are found primarily in the United States along the beaches and coastlines of Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. But sadly, their numbers all around the globe are declining – from the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea, back to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In Florida alone, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported in 2009 that loggerhead sea turtles represented the fourth lowest count since the Index Survey Beach Index began in 1989–with a 38 percent decline from 1998 to 2009.
Even though all seven classifications of sea turtles that reside in U.S. waters are currently protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), there are still outstanding reasons for the decline of loggerhead sea turtles. Furthermore, the conditions of their nesting habitat have also gone from bad to worse, as the numbers of stranded turtles went six-fold over the past decade from a variety of development on beaches; such as stores and hotels.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), 1070 sea turtles were displaced or killed from the oil spill, with 21 loggerhead sea turtles found alive and 53 dead. But it is the next set of numbers that took me back to the morning on the beach in Florida: 13,473 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings and 273 nests were trans-located from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean because of the oil spill. Luckily, these baby sea turtles had help, but the sad reality is not all turtles will receive this type of care.
How You Can Help Make a Difference
Right now, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are in the process of determining whether to re-classify loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered,” under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)–a move which would help guarantee stronger protections for our country’s most well known species of sea turtles.
More protection today equals more loggerhead sea turtles in the future, so what we can do for them now without becoming crossing guards is urge the NMFS to strengthen protections for loggerhead sea turtles.
By treating loggerhead sea turtles as a priority, we can preserve one of the earth’s oldest creatures for future generations; and even though being a turtle crossing guard does sound like fun, we can keep our day jobs too!
by Megan Blevins, National Wildlife Federation