Why Sea Turtles Are Endangered (& What We Can Do About It)

Sea turtle populations are dwindling and need your help!

This article will explain why they are in trouble and what you can do to save them.

Key Takeaway:

Sea turtles are endangered by human activity. This includes poaching, pollution, climate change, coastal development, and turtle bycatch. To prevent this, we must protect nesting beaches, reduce bycatch, and plastic use, and report illegal trade.

Are you ready to find out more about why sea turtles are in so much danger and what you can do to help?

Then make sure you check out the next section of this article.

sea turtle eating plastic bag

Why Are Sea Turtles Endangered?

Sea turtles are beautiful marine animals. They have the potential to live long lives, as some species have a lifespan of more than 60 years.

Even still, not many sea turtles are able to live as long as they should.

Why are sea turtles endangered?

Sea turtles are endangered because of human activity. Coming up next, we are going to discuss some of the threats to sea turtles and the dangers to their habitats and health.

Sea Turtle Threats

Are sea turtles endangered?

Yes, they are. Here’s why.

Sea turtle populations are dwindling because of human activity. Here are some of the significant threats to their habitats and well-being around the world.

  • Humans poach and overexploit sea turtles for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells
  • Humans destroy sea turtle habitats with pollution
  • They are accidentally caught in fishing gear (also known as sea turtle bycatch)
  • Climate change impacts sea turtle nests
  • Light pollution confuses sea turtle hatchlings on nesting beaches and coastal development destroys natural habitats

Poaching and Overexploitation

Sea turtle numbers are on the decline due to poaching and illegal trade. Sea turtle harvesting includes killing turtles for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells.

Around the world, they are poached for the following reasons.

  • For human consumption. In some lands, turtle meat is a delicacy. Tens of thousands of sea turtles are killed for this purpose every year.
  • For medicine
  • For religious ceremonies
  • International trade of sea turtle parts

Pollution and Habitat Destruction

There are many threatened species of sea turtles due to pollution. Here are some of the dangers affecting them.

  • Plastics such as plastic bags. Sea turtles get caught up in pieces of plastic floating in the ocean and swallow them.
  • Other marine debris. Waste on beaches goes into the ocean. The trash on sandy beaches where sea turtles nest stops hatchlings from making it to the shore. It also prevents nesting turtles from making it back to the ocean.
  • Oil spills. These poison the sea turtle.
  • Chemical pollution. This damages a sea turtle’s immune system and makes it more susceptible to disease.

Fishing Gear

Sea turtles are also endangered by fishing gear. Sometimes it is intentional, and other times it is by incidental capture.

Here’s why.

  • Discarded fishing gear in the ocean. Sea turtles are trapped in gill nets, shrimp nets, and longline hooks that are left behind by local fishermen. When trapped the sea turtles cannot come to the surface of the water for air. This causes them to drown. Others are not able to feed when they get tangled up in nets. This leads to starvation. This happens when discarded fishing gear floats into the ocean and marine protected areas.
  • Poaching. Sea turtles continue to be killed for the illegal international trade of shells, skin, and eggs.

Climate Change

Climate change has a massive impact on sea turtle habitats and nesting beaches. Here’s how climate change leads to habitat destruction.

  • Sand temperatures increase. Global warming causes the temperature of the sand to rise and disrupts the normal ratio of male and female turtles hatching. This causes a decline in the number of male sea turtles.
  • Sea level rise. The rising sea level can destroy nesting beaches and thus massively impact nesting season.
  • Increasingly severe storms. Freak storms damage nesting sites.

Light Pollution and Habitat Loss

Baby sea turtles are often confused by light pollution. Increased human activity on beaches and coastal development also destroy critical sea turtle habitats.

Here’s how this affects them.

  • Lights from roads and buildings. Instead of making their way back to the ocean, hatchling turtles get lost and never make it to safety. They are killed by natural predators.
  • Coastal development. Vehicles on the beach compact the sand and make it impossible for female sea turtles to dig nests. Sand filling that takes place during coastal development destroys critical sea turtle habitats.
  • Sedimentation. Clearing the land and agriculture can affect marine ecosystems and coral reefs.
sea turtle swiming in plastic

Sea Turtle Species

There are seven sea turtle species but not all of them are at the same risk of extinction. Some are threatened and some are at lower risk of becoming extinct.

Here are all seven sea turtle species and their conservation statuses.

Green turtlesEndangered species
Hawksbill turtlesCritically endangered species
Leatherback turtlesVulnerable
Loggerhead turtlesVulnerable
Kemp’s Ridley turtlesCritically endangered species
Olive Ridley turtlesVulnerable
Flatback turtlesInsufficient data

Of the seven different species of sea turtles, three of them are classed as vulnerable. This means they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

One of the seven species, the green sea turtle, is considered endangered. This means that this turtle is also facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, even greater than that of the Leatherback, Loggerhead, and Olive Ridley turtles.

Two of the seven are considered to be critically endangered species. This means they are facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

Clearly, raising awareness for coastal wildlife is of the utmost importance.

Sea Turtle Conservation

We’ve discussed a lot of the dangers sea turtles face, but we’re now going to look at some of the solutions to the problem.

What can you do to help protect sea turtles?

Let’s find out.

Protect Nesting Beaches

We can all do our part to help protect sea turtles. One way is by making sure we clean up after ourselves when visiting beaches where sea turtles make their nests.

When visiting the beach, make sure you take all of your refuse with you when you leave. This will prevent the trash from littering the beach and interfering with hatchlings and female sea turtles.

Keeping the beaches free from the litter will ensure baby sea turtles can make it to the water’s edge without getting stuck in plastic refuse and then caught by their predators. Take part in beach clean-up programs put on by local communities when possible.

Reduce Plastic Use

A lot of the plastic we use ends up in our oceans. When it does, sea turtles often get caught or hurt by these foreign objects.

Sea turtles swallow the plastic. When we reduce the amount of plastic we use, we do our bit to help turtles.

Reduce Bycatch

Turtles are a highly migratory species and they are found in many oceans around the world. It is all too common for turtles to get caught in gill nets and get hurt by J fishing hooks that suffocate turtles and cause internal bleeding.

To reduce turtle bycatch, the following things need to happen.

  • Fisheries need to use circle hooks instead of traditional J hooks. Sea turtles are much less likely to swallow circle hooks.
  • More fisheries need to be taught how to rescue and resuscitate marine animals when they are caught in fishing gear
  • More fisheries need access to turtle excluder devices that will help a turtle escape from a fishing net when caught
  • Fisheries need to use nets with lights. Lights on the nets deter a sea turtle and will prevent it from getting close to the net when looking for food.

Report Illegal Trade

The sea turtle is always in danger of illegal trade. People make a business from the prohibited trade of turtle eggs, shells, and skin.

Whenever you see illegal turtle trade, you must report it. If you suspect someone is illegally fishing and selling these animals, call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tip line.

Putting an End to Sea Turtle Threats

sea turtle with a plastic bag on its neck

Almost all sea turtle species are at risk of extinction in the wild.


Because of human activity such as poaching, pollution, climate change, coastal development, and bycatch. Even if you live far from the ocean, this article has shown us there is still something you can do to help.

Cutting down your plastic use is one way to protect the sea turtle. Picking up your trash when you go to the beach and reporting any prohibited trade is another.

Finally, fisheries need to change their fishing equipment and learn about turtle rescue and first aid.

Did you find the information in this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best guides on threats to sea turtles and other animals. For more information on sea turtles and other marine turtles, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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