What’s Going On?
June is World Sea Turtle Month! Sea turtles are extremely important to the health of marine ecosystems, and active awareness campaigns like World Sea Turtle Month promote their protection. To celebrate these beautiful creatures and kick off a month of sea turtle education, let’s get to know the species around the world and here in Florida waters:
There are 7 species of Sea Turtles:
- Green Turtle
- Kemp’s Ridley
- Olive Ridley
Five of the seven species are found in Florida!
Meet the Species!
Green Sea Turtle
Named for the color of their fat, green sea turtles are herbivores as adults. They are olive green or brown, with white bellies, and they keep seagrasses healthy.
Found in Florida’s tropical areas, they are known for their pointed beaks and patterned shells. They have a very specialized diet, primarily eating sponges.
Loggerhead sea turtles are named after their thick skulls and powerful jaws, which enable them to crunch down on shellfish. Florida hosts the largest number of nesting loggerheads in the world!
Instead of a hard shell, leatherbacks have a leathery hide stretched over a network of bone, which allows them to dive in deeper water. They are the largest sea turtle species.
They are the smallest in size and most endangered sea turtle species in the world. Only about 200 individuals remained in 1980, but they have since bounced back to about 7,000-9,000 individuals in the wild today. Kemp’s ridley turtles are carnivores and crab is their favorite meal.
Why It Matters
Sea turtles are an indicator species; their abundance and health is an indicator of how healthy their environment is. Their eggs provide nutrients in their terrestrial environment and promote dune health while their feeding activities maintain the marine ecosystem, keeping seagrass populations in check.
All five of the species found in Florida are endangered. Habitat destruction, pollution, and boat strikes are among their greatest threats in Florida but their numbers are recovering thanks to conservation efforts.
What you can do
- Use turtle-safe lighting in beachside residences to prevent disorientation during nesting season.
- Do not disturb marked sea turtle nests.
- Fill in holes or knock down sandcastles after you leave the beach to prevent hatchlings from getting caught.
- Pick up trash turtles might mistake for food.
- Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas.
Info from NOAA, SeeTURTLES, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Park Service.