Welcome to Sea Turtle Week, an annual campaign to celebrate these charismatic species and showcase our work to protect and conserve them.
This year we highlight our efforts to:
Reduce entanglement in fishing gear or bycatch, the number one global threat to sea turtles.
Conserve Pacific Leatherbacks, one of nine Species in the Spotlight.
Decrease vessel strikes through responsible boating practices.
Advance sea turtle research via genetic fingerprinting and habitat monitoring.
I am inspired by our mission and our efforts to save sea turtles. A few years ago, I had the great fortune to assist researchers learning about leatherback sea turtle hatchlings in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. I can remember the thrill of watching those hatchlings, three inches long, emerge from their nests. They climbed up to reach the beach surface and to begin their journey to the ocean. I watched them scramble to the ocean where they will spend the next two decades. Then the females who survive will hopefully return to this beach to dig a nest and lay their own eggs. Watching this scene unfold, I thought about the many threats these hatchlings face during their life cycle. An important part of our mission is to reduce the dangers so they can thrive.
Sea Turtle Protection and Conservation
All sea turtles in U.S. waters are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Their populations are greatly diminished from historical levels as a result of human-caused threats.
NOAA Fisheries is committed to the protection and conservation of sea turtles. We conduct research to inform conservation management actions. We work closely with our partners to advance conservation and recovery of these amazing animals. Since sea turtles were listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s we are beginning to see some success stories. For example,the Northwest Atlantic green turtle is beginning to recover.
Habitat preservation is an important aspect of sea turtle recovery and the United States hosts globally significant numbers of nesting turtles in certain locations. For example, the southeast U.S. hosts the largest assemblage of nesting loggerheads in the world and the Central North Pacific green turtle nests only in Hawaii.
Join me to learn about sea turtles this week. Many species continue to decline and we must continue to actively work to reduce their primary threats and help turn the tide toward their recovery. You can help us. And together we can help protect sea turtles for years to come!