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Threats to Sea Turtles
The seven species of sea turtles living today are found in all the oceans of the world except the polar regions. All seven species are listed as theatend, endangered or critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) Red List.
Threats to sea turtles
- Fishing equiptment: Sea turtles can become trapped in fishing devices such as trawls, pound nets, and longlines.
- Marine debris: Sea turtles often mistak floating plastic for jellies, one of their primary foods. Turtles can choke or suffocate from the plastic.
The Sea Turtles of the ABQ BioPark
The ABQ BioPark Aquarium houses three different species in its Open Ocean exhibit. These three turtles cannot be released into the wild.
To promote sea turtle conservation, aquarists and docents teach visitors about turtles and conservation every day at the Aquarium. Visitors can also attend Sea Turtle Awareness Day each year to learn about sea turtles and what can be done to protect them. You can learn more about sea turtle conseration during the ABQ BioPark Earth Day celebration.
Description: Kemp's Ridley turtles are the smallest of sea turtles, weighing about 100 lbs. Their shells are about 2 ft in diameter, and their carapace (top shell) is grayish green while their plastron (bottom shell) is cream or yellow. The Kemp's Ridley turtle on display in the aquarium is almost entirely cream colored, which is typical of KR turtles in captivity.
Habitat: They live in the sandy-floored neritic zones of the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern coast of the U.S. See where Kemp's Ridley turtles live.
Diet: Crabs, mollusks, fish and jellies.
Conservation: Listed as Endangered by the Endangered Species Act, the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle is of special conservation concern. They have only one principal nesting site in the entire world: Rancho Nuevo in Tamaulipas, Mexico. In the early 1900s, as many as 42,000 turtles could be seen coming ashore in a single day during nesting season! However, due to large scale human excavation of these nests for sale of the eggs, the population of Kemp's Ridleys severely declined in the 1940s-1960s. By the mid 1960s, the largest group of nesting turtles at Rancho Nuevo was 5,000. In 1966, egg collection on the beaches of Rancho Nuevo was officially banned, and the turtles have seen a steady increase in population since then. A group of scientists has been trying to establish an alternate nesting site on South Padre Island off the coast of Texas, and they have documented small numbers of turtles beginning to lay eggs there.
Click here to learn more about Kemp's Ridley turtles.
Description: The Hawksbill sea turtle is named for it's sharp beak-like mouth, which allows it to reach into holes in marine rock to find food. This turtle is medium-sized, weighing 100-200 pounds and measuring 25-25 inches in shell diameter. Their shells have a distinct tear-drop shape, which makes them more hydrodynamic, and the back edge of their carapace (top shell) is serrated. Their coloring is widely varied, and is typically a mottled pattern ("tortoiseshell", if you will).
Habitat: Hawksbills are most recognizably associated with coral reefs, but they are wide ranging animals. They can be found in all the major oceans within the tropical range. See where Hawksbill turtles live...
Conservation: Hawksbills are listed as Endangered by the Endangered Species Act, due to destruction of their fragile habitats. Since this species is so dependent on coral reefs, factors that endanger reefs, like climate change, pollution, oil spills and craft collisions, also endanger these turtles. They are also threatened by direct hunting, as they are prized for their beautiful shells. Egg collection is also a threat in some areas.
Click here to learn more about Hawksbills.
Description: Loggerhead turtles are the largest species at the ABQ BioPark Aquarium. They can weigh up to 250 lbs and measure 36 inches in shell diameter. The name "Loggerhead" comes from the large size of their heads. Their shells are somewhat heart shaped, and the carapace is typically reddish brown in color. The plastron, or bottom shell, is usually yellowish or white.
Habitat: Loggerheads live in neritic habitats in the tropical range. See where Loggerhead turtles live.
Diet: Hard-shelled prey like conch and whelks
Conservation: The Loggerhead is listed as a Threatened Species by the Endangered Species Act. The main threat to their survival is incidental entrapment in fishing equipment.
Click here to learn more about Loggerheads.
What You Can Do
- Pick up and recycle any plastic trash. Even though we are far from the ocean, a plastic bag that gets into the river in Albuquerque could wash all the way down the Rio Grande to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Use reusable cloth bags instead of plastic ones—then you don't have to worry about them getting into the ocean at all!
- Do not disturb turtle nests or young turtles when you visit a beach where turtles nest. Also, if staying on the beach, make sure to turn off all of your lights so that the young hatchlings aren't confused by them.
- Responsible Purchasing: Buy fish that has been caught using Turtle Exclusion Devices.
- Minimize your carbon emissions by turning off lights, reducing your use of electricity, and walking/biking/using public transportation instead of driving. Carbon emissions contribute to climate change, which is affecting the coral reefs, a major habitat for Hawksbill Turtles.