One of the great pleasures of a tropical vacation is the opportunity to swim alongside sea turtles. These large aquatic reptiles go about their business munching on ocean plants paying little attention to the captivated snorkelers in their midst.
For a long time, such experiences were relatively hard to come by. Sea turtles have been endangered for decades. On the island of Kauai in Hawaii, for example, one used to have to go to a specific area of the northern coast to have much chance at all of spotting a turtle. But these days, they seem to be everywhere off the island’s beaches.
The southeastern US has also seen a major resurgence of sea turtles. Endangered sea turtles are nesting in record numbers from North Carolina to Florida. Researchers studying turtles at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, for example, counted over 12,000 nests this year, the second new record in three years.
There has been a concerted effort to keep sea turtles safe including protecting habitats, implementing lighting ordinances to prevent turtles from getting disoriented, covering nests to protect them from predators, and requiring shrimp fisherman to use nets that allow trapped turtles to escape.
At the moment it seems like all these efforts are paying off. Scientists are becoming increasingly confident that we are in a recovery period for sea turtles. But turtles live a long time and reproduce slowly. So while the past five years have looked pretty good, it may be 25 years before we really know if we have truly changed the prospects for these remarkable creatures.
Sea Turtles Are Making a Big Comeback in the Southeast
Photo, posted June 25, 2011, courtesy of Nathan Forget via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.