World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated on June 16, the birthday of biologist Dr Archie Carr. Also as the ‘father of sea turtle biology.’ With 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped in our oceans every year, they unfortunately under threat.

According to Oceana, a non-profit conservation organization, the initial reason for a decline in sea turtle population was direct fishing. But now, “other threats, including injury or death in commercial fisheries, habitat degradation and climate change top the list.” Sea turtles help the ecosystem in a variety of important ways:

Hawksbills specialize in eating a few species of sea sponges. This diet allows other types of sponges to grow, which increases coral reef biodiversity. Without hawksbills, sponges can overgrow and suffocate slow-growing corals causing them to die.

The eggshells and unhatched eggs of marine turtles also provide important nutrients that nourish vegetation such as beach grasses, and help to prevent coastal erosion on beaches. Leatherback sea turtles specialize in eating jellyfish which keeps jellyfish populations in check. Adult green sea turtles primarily eat sea grasses, and act as “aquatic lawnmowers” keeping seagrass beds healthy.

Of the 7 sea turtle species, 6 are listed by the IUCN Red List as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. Of these, five are found along the coast of Pakistan. They are: Olive Ridley, hawksbills, loggerheads and leatherbacks. Green turtles are the most abundant specie that nests along Pakistan’s coast while Leatherbacks are found rarely.

According to WWF-Pakistan, “plastic pollution is the major threat to the marine turtles. Turtles mostly mistakenly ingest plastic bags, which is fatal to their survival. Ghost nets (abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear) are equally threatening.”

As citizens, we must keep our beaches clean as single use plastic bags are often mistaken by sea turtles for their favourite food, jellyfish and consumption cause them to suffocate.

The WWF team is working to halt the “illegal trade or turtle meat and eggs through TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade-monitoring arm of WWF and IUCN. Our teams are also focusing on raising awareness and promoting ecotourism at marine turtle sites, so that local communities become involved in and benefit from protecting turtles and their nests.”


From : pk.mashable.com

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