Today I would like to introduce the green sea turtle to you guys. The green sea turtle can be considered one of the largest sea turtles and is known as the only herbivore among the different species. As often mistaken, green sea turtles are actually named for the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not their shells. They are found mainly in tropical and subtropical water. Sadly those beautiful and peaceful animals are classified as endangered, since they are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites. However, green sea turtles are extremely important in order to maintain our most important ecosystem. While grazing on seagrasses and algae they help maintaining the seagrass beds which makes them more productive. Moreover, the by green sea turtles consumed and quickly digested seagrass becomes available as recycled nutrients to many species that live in the sea grass ecosystem. Furthermore, seagrass beds are extremely important to human food security as they function as nurseries for several species of invertebrates and fish. Unfortunately, the green sea turtle is threatened in many different ways, including fisheries bycatch, habit loss, overharvesting as well as illegal trade. Due to this, it is extremely important to rescue turtles and release them back to their natural habitat as quick as possible, just like the Marine Savers are doing it. They currently have one Olive Ridley turtle and five Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in rehabilitation at Kuda Huraa. The Green turtles will remain in the facility until they reach the straight carapace length (SCL) of 30cm, following the same protocols as with the Head Start Programme to increase their chances of survival after release.
Coming back to their increasing threats:
- Bycatch: Worldwide, incredibly many sea turtles a year caught in shrimp trawl nets, on longline hooks and in fishing gillnets by accident. Once caught, many of them drown, since sea turtles need to reach the surface to breathe. As fishing activity expands, this threat is more of a problem.
- Habit loss: Uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches, and other human activities destroy or disturb sea turtle nesting beaches which they are dependent on.
- Overhavesting & Illegal trade: Worldwide, the green sea turtles are being hunted and their eggs harvested. A significant part of this is for human consumption, however the trade of turtle parts remains a profitable business as well. In West Africa for example, sea turtles are being killed for use in medicine and some traditional ceremonies.