4,600 Sea Turtles Killed Every Year by U.S. Hatcheries

4,600 Sea Turtles Killed Every Year by U.S. Hatcheries

What do you want first, the good news or the bad news? The good news is that the killing of turtles as bycatch from the fishing industry is down a whopping 90% from 1990! That is definitely something to celebrate. Obviously people are working hard at reducing the numbers of turtles killed, and the efforts of activists, legislators, and fishery workers are working. Well done! No matter how many are being killed, we need to celebrate this progress and commend all involved.

That said, there are still 4,600 turtles being killed every year. While it’s mind-boggling that this big number is only 10% of what turtles were being killed by the fishing industry in the last decade, it’s also still a big enough number for concern. Remember, these turtles aren’t intentionally caught; they catch on nets or hooks meant for fish, much like dolphins and other bycatch animals are. They are still threatened or endangered species, depending upon each individual turtle species, and every loss counts.

So what do we do to help the turtles? For starters, we can sign up at the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation for updates, action alerts, and more information. We can learn which industries result in the highest loss of life (shrimp trawling turns out to result in the largest loss of sea turtles) and reduce or even eliminate our consumption of such products to prevent further fishing from occurring. (I can see people asking, “You want me to give up shrimp to save turtles?” They’re almost gone; I will be happy to do it. But even if you reduce your consumption rather than stop altogether, you’ll still be helping!)

To teach children about turtle issues and conservation, you can go to Save the Turtles for information and games. There are a bunch of non-fishing industry related things we can do to help turtles, too. For example, did you know that if you leave lights on near the beach, the turtle hatchlings will become confused and head inland rather than heading out to sea as they are supposed to? They are attracted to the lights and think they are seeing reflections from the moon! Mother sea turtles, on the other hand, will become discouraged from the artificial lighting and refuse to lay their eggs when they need to. A solution would be to turn out unnecessary lighting, use lower wattage, or direct lights away from the sea. Learn more ways to help sea turtles here.