How did the Green Sea Turtle population increase from less than 100 individuals in 1980 to over 2,500 today?
The Florida Everglades has long been known as a haven for wildlife. In the 1960s, however, the area was hit hard by pollution and development. As a result, the number of sea turtles nesting in the region dropped dramatically.
But thanks to conservation efforts, the turtle population has rebounded. Today, the Everglades is home to some of North America’s largest populations of sea turtles.
What Exactly Are Green Sea Turtles?
Green sea turtles are amazing animals. They are the largest marine turtle species and the third-largest reptile species overall. Their name comes from the fact that they have green skin, although they are actually brownish-gray.
Sea turtles are also called leatherbacks because of their heavy shells.
Most sea turtles spend a huge majority of their lives actually in the ocean, feeding on jellyfish, fish, small crustaceans, and other organisms. They return to shallow coastal waters to lay their eggs.
Green sea turtles nest on beaches along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Brazil. They are slow swimmers and often travel long distances to reach nesting sites.
Why Did Sea Turtles Need Protecting?
Sea turtle conservation is a complex issue. These creatures spend most of their lives in the ocean and only rarely come directly ashore for the purpose of nesting. When they do, it’s important that they can do this safely.
To protect them, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973. It listed the species itself under this and gave federal agencies the ability to put vital and firm protections in place.
For example, they have made it strictly illegal to hunt green sea turtles for things like food. While this was great news for the turtles, it didn’t happen overnight. It took 20 to around 40 years for the great benefits of this brand-new law to be felt.
Meanwhile, there were still many threats that needed to be addressed. One of these was the fact that, while the ESA had protected the species, there was no enforcement mechanism.
So if someone wanted to take advantage of the protected status, they could. There was also the problem that, since the species wasn’t yet well understood, it was hard to tell exactly what habitat needed protecting.
Finally, there was the problem that, even though the species was protected, it wasn’t easy to get funding for research into its needs.
What Was Previously Done To Protect Green Sea Turtles?
In the 1980s, the United States banned the importation of shrimp caught using techniques that harmed sea turtles.
Since then, the States, along with many other countries, has worked to reduce the number of sea turtle deaths caused by accidental capture in shrimp trawls, gill nets, and long lines. One of the best ways to prevent this is through the use of Turtle Excluder Devices.
These devices allow turtles to escape while keeping fish inside the netting. There are several types of TEDs, including flapper, spring, barrier, and others. The U.S. government has a list of approved TED manufacturers and distributors.
Green turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) throughout their range, including in the United States. As a result, many states and nations have implemented laws to protect the species and its habitat.
These efforts have helped the species rebound in places like Florida, where the number of nesting females increased dramatically after the ESA listing.
But the listing put forward by the ESA did not stop at protecting the species in the U.S.; it also gave the federal agencies themselves the ability to work with international partners to protect the turtle species anywhere it lives.
Several treaties and agreements have been signed since the ESA listing to help conserve the species around the globe.
What’s Happening In Florida To Protect Sea Turtles?
Green sea turtle habitats and nests in the state of Florida are possibly the most thoroughly studied in the entire world. Some of them have actually been monitored closely for over 35 years and counting.
In the past decade, they have seen an exponential increase in the number of green turtle nests along the Atlantic coast of North America. They have also seen a dramatic reduction in the number of deaths during nesting season.
This improvement is due to the protection of nesting sites through the establishment of new wildlife refuges, national parks, and other conservation areas.
Many of these sites were previously unprotected and thus had few protections. These new protections helped us to create a safe environment for green sea turtles to nest.
In addition, many states have passed laws requiring beach managers to implement mitigation measures to reduce the impact of coastal development on green sea turtle nesting.
These mitigation measures include constructing barriers to prevent vehicle access, installing solar lighting, and planting vegetation to provide shade.
How Has Florida Helped The Sea Turtles Come Back?
Florida’s green sea turtle population has achieved the milestone of being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This means that the state has met its goal of increasing the number of nesting females by at least 50 percent since 2007.
Now the state must continue to monitor the population’s health and ensure that it continues to grow. If the population does not increase, then the state will need to consider whether to remove the listing.
The biggest challenge facing green sea turtles today is the human destruction of their nesting grounds. Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done before all green sea turtles can safely nest in Florida once again.
We hope you’ve found all the information you could possibly need about how Florida itself has helped the comeback of sea turtles and what needs to be done next to keep their numbers rising!