Attention: Your favorite characters Crush and Squirt from the beloved movie "Finding Nemo" are in serious danger.
Over winter break, my family and I visited Cancun, and we had a chance to explore the exquisite flora and fauna in Mexico. We took a day trip to Isla Mujeres, aka Island of Women, which is a small island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. We had the opportunity to visit a sea turtle sanctuary called Tortugranja and I was shocked to learn about how horrible the situation is regarding the safety of sea turtles.
In Isla Mujeres, for example, until about only twenty years ago, sea turtles were commonly captured by fishermen. Fortunately, the Mexican Fishing Ministry founded the Centro de Investigaciones Pesqueras in an effort to provide protection for the sea turtles and thereby increase their population. Since then, many sea turtle sanctuaries have been established in Mexico and some of the coastal states in the United States of America.
However, sea turtle hunting is still ever-present and has become a huge problem, both for the sea turtle population and for the surrounding marine and coastal dune environments. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy and HuffPost, sea turtles are currently classified as an endangered species. About 42,000 sea turtles are continuing to be killed every year, and despite these staggeringly high numbers, the statistics only count the ones captured legally - many more are being captured illegally.
Although measures are being taken such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, illegal trade of sea turtles is continuing to rise as the numbers of these endangered species keep decreasing every year.
Why should you care? Well, to start, sea turtles are extremely important for the preservation of our ecosystem. Sea turtles are one of the few marine animals to feed on sea grass. To maintain healthy sea grass beds, the grass must be kept fairly short which is done mainly by sea turtles. Due to the decline of healthy sea grass beds, many other marine creatures such as certain species of fish, crustaceans, and shellfish, do not have developmental and breeding grounds. Gradually, higher levels of the food chain will also be affected.
Even though we cannot directly prevent illegal sea turtle trading, we can definitely help out this endangered species in many other ways. Keep the oceans clean and do not dispose of trash in the oceans and beaches. If ever near a breeding site, minimize lighting because hatchlings tend to gravitate towards lighted areas. If boating, be careful of your surroundings and do not go too close to any sea turtles that you may come across as the underside of the boat can be very dangerous for sea turtles.
Help save our sea turtles!