In some parts of the turtles’ range they are harvested for their meat and eggs, despite protections the U.S. and some countries may place on them. Some populations have been severely impacted by the disease Fibropapillomatosis, a disease in which tumors grow on the turtles. As more and more coastline is eaten up by development, sea turtles lose valuable nesting habitat which heavily impacts their numbers.
Along with the development come many other types of disturbance: normally hatchlings use the light reflecting off of the open ocean to navigate from their nest to the water; however, artificial lights from beachfront development disorients them and misleads them into the hustle of busy streets and parking lots surrounded by condos and souvenir shops, where they are sure to die. Hatchling mortality due to native and non-native predators is on the rise, as humans alter habitat to foster the presence of these animals on beaches. Commercial fishing operations ruin foraging habitat and routinely catch sea turtles as by-catch. Marine debris is appearing more and more in the stomachs of necropsied turtles, suggesting another cause of human-induced mortality.
To learn what is being done and how you can help, visit Alabama’s Share the Beach Program. Volunteers of Share the Beach patrol the shores of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge monitoring sea turtle nesting activity.