The Challenges of being a Sea Turtle
By: Yamid Velasquez
Imagine being a sea turtle, such as a Loggerhead or a Kemp’s Ridley, and swimming upwards for a breath of air, when all of a sudden- BOOM!-you’ve been struck by a fisherman’s boat. Unfortunately, this is the fate of many sea turtles. The outcome can be fatal, or cause permanent damage to a turtle. Propeller slashes on the shell (carapace), or partial paralysis of the rear flippers, are only some of the effects of boat hits. Thus, ever changing the quality of life for a turtle.
Bubble butt was hit by a boat, creating an air bubble in her shell- eliminating the possibility for her to submerge into the ocean, and look for food.
Luckily, there are people that are taking the time to take care of these creatures that have been victims of boat hits, entanglements, and impactions. The Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital, and The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, are a few of the facilities helping our green friends, and making a remarkable difference in their future.
For a turtle, boats are not the only thing to worry about. Trash, such as plastic bags or fishing line, can sometimes be thought of as food. The turtle has a strong beak, so it can chomp and break plastics, digest the plastic, and could eventually lead to an impaction. Impactions can create blockage in a turtle’s intestines, and create gas build up. Some of these impactions can be treated with a combination of things, such as fiber, Metamucil, and vegetable oil. Other impactions, such as hooks that get caught in the esophageal or intestinal wall, and must be removed with surgery. In the wild, sometimes impactions can be fatal.
Entanglement is when a turtle gets caught in fishing or buoy lines. Once a turtle gets caught in something, it is very difficult to escape. Sometimes, turtles can drown or lose a flipper due to loss of circulation. The good news is monofilament recycling bins are now located at every single fishing bridge in the Florida Keys, and in other places. It is very important to always dispose of fishing line properly, for you don’t want your fellow flipper friends to get caught in a bad situation.
Fibropapillomatosis is a herpes like virus found on some turtle’s that live in warm regions. The virus creates internal and external cauliflower like tumors, usually around the shoulders and eyes. Internally, they are usually found around the kidneys, lungs, and liver. The external tumors can be removed, but internal tumors cannot be removed. Green Sea Turtles, Loggerheads, Kemp’s Ridleys, and Olive Ridleys are susceptible to this virus, particularly higher numbers are found around human waste waterways. Luckily, current studies are focusing on a cure.
Sea turtles are among one of the oldest species that are still around today. They are special, and have an important role within the ecosystem. Because of human effects, they are facing many new challenges; pollution, coastal degradation, and depletion of certain fish and marine populations are inhibiting them to live healthy, and productive lives. They are only one species of the multiple marine species affected by these issues. As humans, we have a responsibility to clean up after ourselves, and not harm life that has existed, and will continue to exist, with our help and active protection.