As Humans Avoid Beaches, Sea Turtles Are Happier Than Ever
We keep hearing stories about how animals are living their best lives amid worldwide lockdowns that are keeping humans indoors, and sea turtles are no exception. As beaches remain empty and the water is clearer than ever, sea turtles are safer and less prone to the negative effects of human behavior.
Sarah Hirsch, senior manager of research and data at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, told CBS News, “It’s going to be a very good year for our leatherbacks. We’re excited to see our turtles thrive in this environment. Our world has changed, but these turtles have been doing this for millions of years and it’s just reassuring and gives us hope that the world is still going on.”
Since there are fewer people swimming, boating, and operating cruise ships, there is a much lower chance of turtles being accidentally struck and killed, or their habitats disturbed. All seven species of sea turtles are endangered, and the biggest threat they face is damage to their nesting habitats, which is largely brought about by humans.
According to David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, “All of the reduced human presence on the beach also means that there will be less garbage and other plastics entering the marine environment. Ingestion and entanglement in plastic and marine debris also are leading causes of injury to sea turtles.”
Now that humans have cleared the coasts and beaches, there are significantly more sea turtle nests than usual — particularly in Florida — which means thousands of more hatchlings than usual this hatching season, which lasts from March 1 to October 31. Baby sea turtles are also very disoriented by light, particularly from cruise ships, nearby bars, and other human activity, which can prevent them from safely making it to the water when they hatch.
“We expect that thousands of hatchlings that ordinarily would be disoriented by lights this nesting season will not be — and are more likely to survive to reach the sea,” Godfrey said.