Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Turtles facing the worst of ocean pollution

by Brianna Bush - Executive Editor
Tue, Oct 1st 2019 05:00 pm
People are causing a detrimental amount of harm to all marine life but particularly turtles. From crowding the beaches where sea turtles make their nests (left) to throwing away plastics that can be harmful such as straws and fishing nets (above, bottom) and polluting the oceans with oil that causes the turtles to have difficulty swiming (above, middle). The warming of the ocean waters is also causing barnacles to grow on the turtles (above, top) which can weigh them down.
People are causing a detrimental amount of harm to all marine life but particularly turtles. From crowding the beaches where sea turtles make their nests (left) to throwing away plastics that can be harmful such as straws and fishing nets (above, bottom) and polluting the oceans with oil that causes the turtles to have difficulty swiming (above, middle). The warming of the ocean waters is also causing barnacles to grow on the turtles (above, top) which can weigh them down.

Pollution is a problem all over the world, it not only affects humans, but the entire environment and the creatures that call it home. However, pollution is not the only issue, there are also animal traffickers, ignorant people, commercial fisherman, illegal pet trade and oil companies with sea barges that have oil spills. This combination of threats is leading to the endangerment and near extinction of sea animals; specifically, turtles.

Sea turtles are considered to be one of the gentlest creatures in the ocean and we as human beings take advantage of their vulnerability.

Some people visit different beaches and come across groups of nests and disturb them. Should you come across nests it is best to stay back to let the hatchlings and mothers be on their own. 

Robin Trindell Ph.D., leader of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comission’s (FWC) sea turtle management program suggests beach goers respectfully leave the marine life alone. “People can help save threatened and endangered sea turtles by giving them enough space and privacy to safely and successfully lay their eggs. It’s as simple as keeping your distance and avoiding shining lights or taking flash photos of the nesting sea turtles.”

People can be a danger to all forms of wildlife for different reasons, many of which revolve around pollution. Some specific pieces of trash that are detrimental to marine life are straws.

At first, “skipping the straw” was an idea, something a group came up with. According to sailorsforthesea.org, straws make it to the top 10 types of debris found in the water and on beaches. There are many organizations trying to combat straw based industries, and are inventing kinds of reusable or eco-friendly straws.

Schools like The College at Brockport have completely removed straws from their campuses and encourage students to use strawless lids or reusable straws. These steps are begining to pop up around the country and worldwide, but some people have noticed the plastic lids being made instead are more harmful. It is not a perfect system but progress is evident.

In my first column it was discovered the fishing nets from commercial fishing boats are cast off and thrown out once they have outlasted their use. These nets are almost invisible to the aquatic life and many of the inhabitants venture too close and become entangled in the nets. 

According to National Geographic, sea turtles become caught in the nets and the more they move and try to escape, the worse the entanglement becomes. 

The nets are not the turtles’ only issue when it comes to the fishing industry. The ignorance of the captains who charter boats and who have no woes about hitting a turtle swiming on the surface. National Geographic reported multiple cases of turtles being hit by boaters, cracking the shells of the turtles and in many cases killing them.

People seem to be the main cause of harm in scenarios of species endangerment. A prime example of species endangerment comes from oil towers that spill, cover and kill the animals in the affected areas. 

“The potential impacts of an oil spill on sea turtles are many and varied,” according to response.restoration.noaa.gov. “For example, some impacts can result from sea turtles inhaling and ingesting oil, becoming covered in oil to the point of being unable to swim, or losing important habitat or food that is killed or contaminated by oil.”

If we can lower the amount of oil that we frack, we can lower the chances of spills happening which will help improve the environment. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing is the technique used to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. 

Because of climate change, the temperature of the water has risen and led to changes in the surrounding environment. There are now more cases of sea turtles being covered in barnacles with scientists and environmentalists working around the clock to help remove the barnacles from the turtles’ shells. (The barnacles need to be removed because the barnacles weigh the turtles down.)

There are multiple things we can do to try and combat the endangerment to turtles. People need to be vigilant of their impact on the environment, because there are many ways we can sustain the earth so the creatures can remain and avoid extinction.

Photo of the Week

Author List