Why Protect Sea Turtles?

…because extinction is forever

Sea turtles are one of the longest living groups of animals to have ever existed, having far outlived the Dinosaurs. They have existed for approximately 200 million years, adapted perfectly for their environment until human activities placed them under increasing pressure. Sea turtles are a flagship species, which means they are a species chosen to represent an environmental cause conserving the marine ecosystem and wildlife. Chosen for their charismatic nature, distinctiveness and vulnerable status, sea turtles engender public support and thus assist leverage of the entire ecosystem and associated species.

Sea Turtles act as environmental indicators. When populations are healthy (disease is uncommon), it reflects on the health of their marine habitat. They feed on a variety of organisms, e.g., Hawksbills eat sponges and corals, providing space for reef colonisation by other organisms, increasing species diversity. They feed other organisms, e.g., insects, crabs, fish, etc. which prey upon them at various life stages. Nutrients turtles produce through digestion feed other organisms. They provide a habitat for an array of animals including cleaner fish, and various barnacle species, some of which are exclusive to sea turtles. Sea turtles are an intricate part of their ecosystem. If they are wiped out, many organisms dependant upon them will also be affected.

Sea turtles make substantial nutrient and energy contributions to beaches, promoting plant growth, stabilising beach and dune systems. Green sea turtles graze sea grass beds, increasing the productivity of those areas. Leatherback turtles are major jellyfish predators, providing natural ecological control of jellyfish populations. If the decline in sea turtle populations is allowed to continue, it could have severe consequences on many marine and terrestrial plant and animal species that depend on sea turtles for their survival.