From the sunny shores of Barcelona to the vast blue expanse of our oceans, sea turtles are the unsung heroes silently shaping the underwater world.
Turtle populations are in a state of global decline with 52% of all identified turtle species threatened with extinction. If we’re not careful, we could soon live in a world where turtles no longer roam the seas.
In this article, we are going to break down the problem of petroleum and how it hurts turtles. But it's not all doom and gloom, we will then go on to share with you five ways you can help save the sea turtles by making small and simple changes in your life. Let's get started.
The Petroleum Problem
When we say petroleum is a huge problem for the ocean, your mind probably jumps to images of Exxon oil spills. And while this is a huge crisis that needs to be addressed, there is another way that petroleum impacts our seas that you might not be aware of.
Picture this: you're catching a wave, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you surf the waters of Nazare or Jeffrey’s Bay. But beneath the surface, a tiny villain lurks, that impacts marine life in ways you could have never imagined.
Neoprene is a material made from petroleum. And as you navigate the ocean in your petroleum-based wetsuit, it unknowingly sheds tiny particles known as microfibers into the water.
Has your dog ever jumped in the sea for a swim in the summertime? Notice how he/she will often leave a faint trail of shedding fur behind him/her. That's kind of like what your petroleum wetsuits do wherever you get in the sea.
A small trail of tiny particles called microfibres peel off your suit and float about in the ocean. The main difference between these and your dog's hair is that you can't see them and they are toxic to marine life.
How Petroleum Wetsuits Harm Turtles
Petroleum-based wetsuits leak chemicals into the water, particularly when the material is exposed to heat or sunlight. This can be harmful to marine life and ecosystems and is a contributor to the declining number of turtles in the sea.
It’s harmful because these shedded microfibers end up being consumed by turtles and other marine life.
These microfibers, which are essentially tiny pieces of plastic, become a part of the marine environment. They can be ingested by various marine organisms, including sea turtles, who often mistake them for food. Sea turtles are opportunistic feeders, and they might encounter microfibers while feeding on jellyfish or other prey items in the water.
For example, research suggests that 52% of the world’s turtles have eaten some kind of plastic. And there are a few reasons for this:
1) A floating plastic bag can look like a lot of jellyfish
2) Some species of sea turtles, like the green sea turtle, are filter feeders. They consume large amounts of water and filter out plankton and other small organisms. Microplastics can be present in the water, and during the filter feeding process, they may be inadvertently taken in along with the food.
3) Sea turtles graze on seagrass and algae, which can become contaminated with microplastics if these particles settle on the seafloor or are suspended in the water column. As turtles consume seagrass and algae, they may also ingest the attached microplastics.
Once ingested, these microfibers then damage the health of sea turtles. It's just common sense that living things should not eat plastic. But where is the actual harm done? Microplastics like neoprene microfibers are not biodegradable, so they persist in the turtles' digestive system and cant be broken down. This can lead to blockages, internal injuries, and potential starvation. The ingested microfibers take up space in the stomach, reducing the turtle's ability to digest actual food and toxic chemicals from the plastic could potentially be released into the turtles body.
And this gets even worse when wetsuits pile up in landfills and are constantly exposed to direct sunlight, every hour of every day (but that's a topic for another day).
And this is just a small example of the ways in which neoprene is toxic, and bad for the environment. Which makes it a poor choice for a wetsuit material. But luckily there are some great alternatives to neoprene wetsuits and a few ways that anyone (even those that don’t regularly venture into the sea) can help save the turtles.
How to Save the Sea Turtles: 5 Ways You Can Help
Turtle lovers, eco-warriors, and ocean enthusiasts, it's time to roll up our sleeves and dive into action!
By incorporating these five fin-tastic (we couldn't resist the bad pun) ways to help save sea turtles into our daily lives, we can make a significant impact on their survival and the health of our oceans.
1. Petroleum-Free Wetsuits: Ride the Eco-Wave
The first and most obvious way to help save sea turtles is to not use a neoprene wetsuit. Luckily, there are some great alternative wetsuits on the market made from other materials such as limestone.
As we've learned, petroleum-based wetsuits pose a significant threat to our marine friends. But the Galapagos Wet Suit from the Turtl Project is one example of a neoprene-free wetsuit that is still highly functional and has a perfect mix of features that make it the perfect companion for a range of sports and sea temperatures.
The high-performance, petroleum-free wetsuits, made from limestone-based rubber, are a game-changer. When you wear one of these eco-friendly wetsuits, you can help prevent harmful microfibers from polluting the ocean and protect sea turtles with every surf.
2. Reduce Single-Use Plastic
It's time to break up with single-use plastics like a bad habit. These convenient items often find their way into the ocean and pose a deadly hazard to sea turtles and marine life.
Instead, opt for reusable alternatives like stainless steel water bottles, eco-friendly shopping bags, and bamboo utensils. It's like giving plastic the cold shoulder and embracing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Globally, each year we produce 300 million tons of plastic, half of which is for single-use items. Most of that then ends up in landfills (and that sometimes even includes plastics you think you are recycling). Only 9% of plastic is recycled. The vast majority—79%— gets dumped into landfills or thrown into the natural environment as litter. And this all means that at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.
3. Support Ocean Conservation Organizations
We're all in this together, and supporting organizations dedicated to sea turtle conservation is a powerful way to make a difference.
By contributing to reputable NGOs and research initiatives, you can help fund critical projects, protect nesting sites, and aid in rehabilitating injured sea turtles. It's like forming a superhero alliance to safeguard our marine friends.
For example, with every purchase from the Turtl Project, we donate XX% of the proceeds to CRAM: conservation and restoration of marine species. And there are many other incredible NGOs out there that are doing work on both a local and global scale to help save the turtles.
You can contribute your time as a volunteer, the resources you have or your money to any organization that is supporting conservation efforts as a way to help protect marine life.
4. Participate in Beach Cleanups
Grab a bucket and a pair of gloves; it's time to hit the beach (but not to sit back and relax). Follow our instagram @TurtlProject to get involved in our next cleanup.
Organized beach cleanups not only remove harmful debris from the shoreline but also create awareness about ocean pollution.
By keeping beaches clean, we provide safe nesting environments for sea turtles and protect them from entanglement or ingestion of marine litter.
5. Promote Responsible Fishing Practices
Let's ensure that our fishing practices prioritize the safety of sea turtles.
Use circle hooks and avoiding fishing in turtle hotspots can help reduce accidental turtle bycatch.
Supporting sustainable seafood choices and advocating for turtle-excluder devices on fishing gear are other ways to ensure these incredible creatures thrive. It's like fishing with a heart and a conscience.
If you dont know where to start, The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch provides an easy to understand guide for anyone looking for sustainable seafood in restaurants and shops. You can quickly view the best and second-best options for each seafood species and it also lists the worst choices for each species.
It's clear that the fate of the sea turtles lies in our hands. From the sandy shores of Barcelona to the vast ocean expanses, sea turtles are more than just enchanting creatures; they are essential guardians of our marine ecosystems. The threats they face, from plastic pollution to climate change, call for urgent action.
But fear not, for we have the power to be their heroes. By embracing sustainable practices, supporting eco-friendly initiatives like the Turtl Project's petroleum-free wetsuits, and engaging in conservation efforts, we can make a real difference in protecting sea turtles and their ocean homes.
How to Help Save the Sea Turtles: FAQ
Q: Why Do We Need to Save the Turtles?
A: Sea turtles are not just adorable creatures with a penchant for pizza (I'm looking at you, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles); they play an essential role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. These ancient reptiles have been swimming the seas for millions of years, acting as ecological superheroes, keeping the balance just right.
There are two main ways they do this. One is regulating marine vegetation. When they munch on seagrass and algae, they prevent overgrowth and ensure thriving underwater habitats.
The second way is that sea turtles help maintain ocean food chains. They also eat jellyfish which keeps their populations in check and stops ecosystem imbalances. It's like a game of dominos - one jellyfish went rogue, and the whole system could collapse.
Q: Where Can I Save Turtles?
A: Anyone can be a part of the conservation action - you don’t even need to be in an area where sea turtles live! By following the 5 tips above, such as wearing a petroleum-free wetsuit, and reducing your the amount of single-use plastic you use, you can make an impact from anywhere.
If you live by a coastal area anywhere in the world, you have some extra opportunities to save sea turtles. From tropical beaches to temperate shores, these locations offer nesting sites for various turtle species and you can get in touch with local conservation efforts to help preserve the area for the turtle population.
Q: Do Turtles Need to Be Saved?
A: Absolutely! Despite their ancient presence on Earth, many sea turtle species are facing threats to their survival. Hawksbill seaturtles have suffered a 90% population reduction in just 100 years.
From plastic pollution and entanglement in fishing gear to habitat loss and climate change, these creatures need our intervention.
Sea turtles play vital roles in maintaining marine ecosystems, and their decline would have ripple effects throughout the oceans. Collective action and being proactive in our conservation efforts ensure a brighter future for turtles and preserve the beauty and biodiversity of our oceans for generations to come.