Most sea turtles live in tropical or subtropical regions. They navigate, covering thousands of miles, probably using the planet’s magnetic field for orientation. Around 200 years ago, there were millions of sea turtles living in our oceans. But since then, the number of sea turtles declines continuously and dramatically. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists six of the seven species of sea turtles on their Red List as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Besides, all seven species of sea turtles are listed as endangered in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits commercial international trade of marine turtles and their parts.
Sea turtles are endangered
The main dangers for sea turtles are illegal hunting, chemical pollution, underwater noise and plastic debris. Further, Abandoned, Lost or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG), so-called ghost gear, are deadly traps for the animals. The nylon ropes wrap around their necks and flippers, cut into their flesh and cause lethal wounds. In Europe alone, some 25,000 ghost nets enter the sea every year.
As a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, OceanCare advocates for a compulsory identification system for fishing gear. By marking the nets, they can be assigned to their owners, a simple measure to prevent them from being discarded at sea.
A global rescue network
Rescuing sea turtles requires expert knowledge. There are several centres around the globe that are specialised in the rescue and care of sea turtles. Although they face similar challenges, there has been little to no exchange among them.
OceanCare consultant and veterinarian Dr. Claire Petros became aware of this shortcoming and initiated a new project. The idea behind the Sea Turtle Rescue Alliance (STRA) is as simple as logical: An online platform serves to collect, document and update expert knowledge about the treatment of these endangered animals. This benefits sea turtle experts and gives less well-equipped rescue-centres access to effective procedures.
Thanks to its wide reach, the Sea Turtle Rescue Alliance has the potential to become an important tool in global species conservation, which hopefully gives the “dinosaurs of the oceans” a future.
Ghost nets, the silent killers in our oceans
Dr. Claire Petros, veterinarian and head of the Sea Turtle Rescue Alliance
Sea turtle near Hawaii
Convention on Migratory Species: protection at the international level
Sea turtles are migratory species and need transboundary protection. OceanCare works within the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, a Multilateral Environmental Agreement that coordinates the conservation of migratory animals and their habitats.