Threats to Sea Turtles
Turtles have been around much longer than humans, and have few natural enemies. In the sea, large sharks are their only predator. However, humans are now their most dangerous threat. Turtles are affected by nets, fishing lines, and poachers who seek to use their shells for merchandise or sell their meat.
They can also die after consuming plastic bags because they are mistaken for jellyfish, which is one of their main food sources. Plastic bags can obstruct digestion and sometimes cause other, more grave, internal injuries. In some parts of the Mediterranean, turtles are captured for their meat and shells. This remains a problem despite strict protection laws. Many times, tourists are consumers of this illicit industry.
Despite these issues, turtles are critical to the well-being of humans and their environment. They monitor jellyfish populations, help maintain the conditions necessary for fisheries to thrive, and maintain the attraction of many regions that depend on tourism.
Unfortunately, turtles and tourists seek the same thing during summer months – quiet, unspoiled beaches. Turtles need these to lay their eggs, so the species’ survival depends on these environments. Every year, there are fewer and fewer undisturbed beaches in the Mediterranean and in Italy. Lights and noise scare female turtles away, causing them to lose the opportunity to lay eggs.
Sharing beaches with turtles can be easy. They don’t need much – only peace and quiet after sunset and no prodding in immediate nest areas. Next time you go to a beach that has turtle nesting areas, try to refrain from playing loud music, creating artificial lighting (such as bonfires), and clean up after yourself. Importantly, if someone offers to sell you turtle shells, live turtles, or other products, reject them and immediately report them to authorities.