Into the Shadows

“Where are the ancient mariners from earlier days
Who roamed the oceans’ ever changing maze;
Where have they gone?” cry voices from the deep
And caverns of darkness answer: “They sleep!”
What greetings come from the voiceless dead?
Did they always live in constant dread?
What salutation, welcome, or reply,
What pleasure from the shells that lifelessly lie?
They are no longer here; they all are gone
Into the shadows

by Steven W Smeltzer
Green Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles, what lies ahead for these intriguing animals?

Hawksbill Turtle PortraitOnce numbering in the hundreds of thousands as little as a hundred years ago, the Green Sea Turtle, the Hawksbill, the Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridely and the Olive Ridley are all listed as endangered species.  While the Loggerhead Turtle is the only sea turtle not currently on the endangered species list, conservation efforts-including placing these turtles on the endangered species list and the actions of many countries and individuals has helped select population groups.  However, much work is yet to be done.

I remember my first encounter with Sea Turtles, many years ago, as if it were yesterday. I had just returned from a business trip to Australia and had stopped by the big island of Hawaii for a little relaxation before heading back to the states. I had wanted to start scuba diving for several years and the resort I was staying at had a dive shop on site that offered an “introductory dive” experience. After some brief drills in the pool, I was off to the boat and my first scuba diving adventure.

We were the second group to enter the water and just after my giant stride to enter the water, I looked to my left and there were 3 Green Sea Green Sea Turtles, Chelonia mydas, just off the reef not more than 5 meters from the dive master and me. It was love at first sight; the turtles were very relaxed and the dive master did an excellent job of having us just hover and watch the turtles as they swam in and around our small group and snacked at the local reef “deli”.

The Sea Turtle population in Hawaii is one of the few population groups that have been increasing over the last 30 years due to the actions of both the local government and concerned citizens. Major population reductions around the world over the last three generations show a decline in the number of mature females between 48% to 67%-depending on the species.  There are startling reductions in the overall population sizes in a number of key nesting sites.

Green Sea Turtle Damaged BillSea Turtles are fighting for survival.  They are hunted for their shells, eggs, meat and skin.  Their habitats are under stress from human development, they fight accidental capture in fishing gear, and they face new diseases, worsened by changes in the environment.  Nesting sites are critically important to the survival of wild Sea Turtles and we must find ways to protect these sites in a responsible fashion or we may soon face a time where the only sea turtles to be found are in an aquarium.

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas:

Green - CERN Redlist

Eastern Pacific Ocean, Mexico – 96% to 98% reduction

Southeast Asia, Indonesia (Berau Islands) – 96% reductionGreen Sea Turtle North Wall

Southeast Asia, Malaysia (Sarawak) – 94% to 99% reduction

Southeast Asia, Peninsular Malaysia – 88% to 92% reduction

Western Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela (Aves Is.) – 98% reduction

Mediterranean Sea, Turkey – 93% reduction

Eastern Indian Ocean, Myanmar – 89% to 90% reduction

Northern Indian Ocean, PRD Yemen (Sharma) – 74% to 80% reduction

Eastern Indian Ocean, Indonesia (West Java) – 96% reduction

Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata:

Hawksbill CERN Redlist

The Hawksbill has decreased an estimated 85+% over the last 100 years from over 70,000 turtles to roughly 10,000 animals today.

Indian Ocean, Madagascar – 90% reductionHawksbill and Soft Coral

Indian Ocean, Egypt – 99% reduction

Indian Ocean, Maldives – 96% reduction

Pacific Ocean, Milman Island 46% reduction

Pacific Ocean, Indonesia 93% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Bahamas 96% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Nicaragua 97% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Brazil 80% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Panama 95% reduction

 Loggerhead, Caretta caretta

Loggerhead - CERN Redlist

Leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea

Leatherback - CERN Redlist

East Pacific Ocean, Mexico 98% reductionGreen Sea Turtle Ambient Light Mala Pier

East Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica 95% reduction

West Pacific Ocean, Malaysia 100% reduction

West Pacific Ocean, Indonesia 76% reduction


Green Sea Turtle Feeling Free

Because of the threats facing the Sea Turtle it is evident that these turtles face a measurable risk of extinction. The time for action is now to help preserve these wonderful creatures for future generations.  Conservation actions, such as those in islands of the Seychelles, Hawaii, Florida and other locations demonstrate that the turtle populations will increase with aggressive conservation activities, but without specific protective actions these turtles are in critical danger.

Take the pledge.  Educate yourself regarding the dangers facing Sea Turtles and commit yourself to tell at five other people. #takethepledge, #conservation, #seaturtles

Note: Endangered species information and population estimates are provided by CERN Redlist

More information on the dangers facing Sea Turtles can be found at:

World wildlife


NOAA Fisheries

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Also visit my gallery for more Sea Turtle photographs

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