Human Impact on Sea Turtles
Turtles are one of the oldest
reptile groups. They are classified as amniotes. They have existed for a long
time ago, specifically, sea turtles which have existed for more than 60 million
years ago (Dobbs 1). Turtles, in general, have survived the journey of time and
is threatened by the pollution that humans have created in the ocean. The sea
turtles that occur on the coasts of America are absolutely endangered. Sea
turtles are significantly important for the ecosystem. Without sea turtles, ecological
disturbance will eventually occur in the oceans. Human threatens sea turtles by
their impulsive actions. Therefore, humans should stop their destructive habits
or we will lose sea turtles and their influences on seafarers. There are a few
organisms in the sea that eat sea grass, and one of them is sea turtles
(Godfrey). A decline in sea grass family has been observed in recent decades.
This decrease may be related to the decrease in the number of sea turtles
(Godfrey). The role of sea grass is really important because it fertilizes the ground
for many species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans (Godfrey).
Sea turtles have been used in many culture’s representations. For example, turtle shields was used for combing and brushing in ancient Greece especially by the upper class (mosaic 5). “The Mochicas of ancient Peru worshiped the sea and its animals, and on many occasions they represented sea turtles” (Shore). The habitats of sea turtles are constantly changing due to human alteration to sea turtles. Turtles are affected by these changes in habitats in many bad ways. the sand dune’s properties are protected by the beach armament (mosaic 389).Beach armoring, if it is discarded enough, impairs the nesting capacity of the turtles to go to the nesting sites (Mosaic 389). This can make nesting turtles decide not to live that particular year. The loss of the nesting area is the biggest threat to the beach (mosaic 389). Feeding the beach is another way to change the habitat of sea turtles. The beach frequently needs sea turtles to make its habitat better for feeding and reproducing, also, feeding the beach where humans throw or pump sand on eroded beaches (mosaic 389). This usually happens only on the most advanced beaches. Feeding on the beach is better than putting the beach together, but replacing the original nesting sites instead of preserving them (Mosaic 390). The beaches that have been fed can have high levels of mud, silt and carapace that make them too compressed for the children to leave the nest (Mosaic 390). The various elements in the sand or drip pump can have an effect on the sex of hatching; since sex is determined by temperature (Dobbs 390).The vehicles represent many threats to turtles in general. Heavy vehicles on beaches can crush developing eggs and pre-emergent hatchlings (Musick 390). Tire tracks from vehicles can trap the young, leaving them exhausted and, therefore, easier prey for predators. “Loggerhead turtles can escape from a footprint of 3 cm in depth, but cannot escape from a rim groove of similar depth” (390). The effect of human feet trafficking on sea turtles has not been widely studied; the Perceived impacts are used as a basis for the translocation of nests (390). Pedestrian traffic has the potential to destroy marine nests and damage emerging offspring (391). In the past, human visitation during the night have been detrimental to the nesting of turtles and hatchlings, but “turtle watchers” have reduced this effect to a large extent. Turtle watchers are volunteers who literally observe the nesting and hatching of turtles (391). They are providing educational and conversational potentials (391).”There are some indications that the strong economic incentive to attract a large number of tourists to some important nesting beaches may not coincide with the need to minimize the disturbance of nesting females and emerging hatchlings” (391). Artificial lighting can come from a variety of different sources; ranging from lamp posts to hotel rooms on the beach. Artificial lighting interrupts important behaviors, including the choice of the nesting site and the nocturnal behavior of the marine finding of both the offspring and the nesting females (391). Direct and indirect experimental evidence has shown that artificial lighting on beaches discourages sea turtles from nesting (391). Nesting that occurs around artificial lighting can have a high mortality (Klemens 108). The young are attracted by artificial rays and are overcome by exhaustion, dehydration and predation (Klemens 109). “The effects of illumination vary with the lunar cycle and are greater during the period of the new moon” (109). There are many solutions for this enigma. Light sources may have lower wattage levels or be shielded, redirected, lowered, recessed or repositioned to protect the light from the beach (110). Yellow incandescent bulbs are a good alternative solution (110). In conclusion, artificial lighting has a detrimental effect on sea turtles and should be noticed by humans and changed to eliminate an effect on sea turtles. Nine percent of sea turtle strandings in the United States, the Gulf of Mexico, the costs of the Atlantic, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands between 1986 and 1993 were related to propeller and boat attacks (Musick 392 ). On the coasts of Florida, from 1991 to 1993, about 338 of 2156 strandings were caused by boat crashes (392). Some of the attacks could have been after the death of the sea turtle; the data shows that this is an important effect on the mortality rate of sea turtles.
Surprisingly, the Sargasso Sea
itself has approximately 70,000 metric tons of tar (Musick 392). Sea turtles
are constantly around the pollution of oil and tar due to currents in the seas.
“… Sea turtles that continually emerge in search of air in a spot of oil
to breathe will experience less immersion times and their growth rate will be
lower” (Shore). The breathing method of sea turtles allows oil vapors to
enter their lungs and, sometimes, they eat a contaminated food or a ball of tar
that carries it to their intestines (Milton). Nesting beaches can also be
affected by oil and tar pollution. Oil deposits on beaches could affect embryos
in the egg nest (Milton). In addition, the oil could pose a mortal danger to
the offspring. Oil and tar always affect the seas in a negative way. The impact
they have on sea turtles is a big concern and should not be taken lightly.
Humans have and are still polluting
the seas with plastic and non-biodegradable waste. Many animals in the sea are
affected by debris, this does not exclude sea turtles. Sea turtles are
entangled in debris that eventually lead to their death. The result of the study of the debris intake
by green, loggerhead, and leatherback turtles in southern Brazil showed the
total of sea turtle that was found
to have ingested plastic which were a stranded of 92 sea turtles, of which 56
green turtles, 16 loggerhead turtles and 2 leatherback turtles were measured,
and 38, 10 and 2 intestinal contents were collected, respectively. (Bugoni,1331) This indicates that most of the sea
turtles have been affected by the human’s action.
Sea turtle entanglement generally occurs with desert fishing gear (Musick 396). Leatherback turtles have been found trapped in active crab pots, lobster pots, and even in buclean lines (398). The production and use of plastic has increased in the last forty years. There has been an increase in metric tons of plastics in the oceans (398). Tangle can reduce the movement that makes the turtle more venerable for predation. Remnants can also become entangled around their heads or fins and kill the sea turtle (398). Ten percent of all mortalities of sea turtles are due to shrimp fishing (Musick 399). The shrimp trawl is, according to the research, the most important factor in the mortality of sea turtles related to human impacts. Sea turtles get trapped in these traps and can not take air and die. The shrimp trawl was killing such an enormous amount of sea turtles, that is why in 1978 the National Marine Fisheries Service of the United States and the Sea Grant Program developed the sea turtle excluder device (TED) (Musick 399). Then, in 1987, the regulations required the seasonal use of TED in high seas shrimp trawlers from the coast of North Carolina to Texas (Milton 115). TED has reduced the morality rate of many of the sea turtle species. On the coast of South Carolina; It is believed that TED reduces the annual mortality rate of loggerhead turtles by forty-four percent (Musick 399).
Sea turtles are
important to the ecosystem of our oceans, but human beings constantly impact
this superfamily. Although most of these impacts are not intentional, they
still affect sea turtles in a detrimental way. If humans do not change their
actions, we will lose this important and interesting family.