Ocean Currents » sea turtle http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 27 Jul 2016 17:29:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Five Animals to Get You Excited for Spring http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/17/five-animals-to-get-you-excited-for-spring/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/17/five-animals-to-get-you-excited-for-spring/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:00:35 +0000 Katie Green http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11689

March 20th marks the first day of spring, but sometimes the weather can make it a little difficult to identify the true beginning of the season. Luckily there are some other signals that the warmer months are coming up. Marine animals of all kinds, from seabirds to giant whales, can be great identification tools for spring. To celebrate this change, we are telling the stories of some amazing marine animals who are known for signaling this season. If you weren’t already excited for some warmer weather, here are a few of the incredible behaviors exhibited by marine animals during this time of year to get you in the spring spirit.

1. Bowhead Whales

Bowhead whales are easily identifiable by their large, curved heads. During their spring migration, they break up the sea ice with their thick skulls in order to clear their path and have room at the surface to breathe. Beginning in March, western bowheads make their way back to the circumpolar Arctic through the Bering Strait. Up to 11,000 bowhead whales swim this narrow passage each spring to prepare for the warmer season. The narrowest point of the Bering Strait is only 55 miles wide making bowhead migrations heavily concentrated and absolutely amazing.

2. Leatherback Sea Turtles

Leatherback sea turtles are the largest sea turtle species in the world. These giant marine reptiles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and grow to be seven feet long. In the spring, female leatherbacks begin to return to their birth places to lay their eggs. This springtime journey is just part of their migration each year. Depending on where each turtle is born, their annual migration can vary anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 miles! Leatherbacks have the widest range globally due to their ability to retain and generate body heat. Unlike many other sea turtle species, leatherbacks can handle the cold. Their migration pattern and breeding habits makes these turtles some of the best travellers in the ocean.

3. North Atlantic Right Whales

North Atlantic right whales are considered one of the most endangered large marine mammal in the world. With only about 300 remaining in the wild, a sighting of these whales is rare at best. North Atlantic right whales migrate north during the beginning of the spring. They will spend the warmer months up north in cooler waters. Summer and early fall months are especially busy for North Atlantic right whale moms as they feed and nurse their calves. These whales give birth in the late winter/early spring then shortly after begin their long travel with their newborn calves.  North Atlantic right whales only give birth to one calf every few years. Their spring home is along the northeast coast of the United States. Learn more about the critical habitat of the North Atlantic right whale by exploring the Northeast Ocean Data portal’s interactive map.

4. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Atlantic bluefin tuna are a highly migratory fish species. They are experts in travelling long distances. Atlantic bluefin tuna have well-developed circulatory systems making them warm-blooded and excellent swimmers. They migrate for two reasons, either to spawn or to seek food. Atlantic bluefin tuna work their way towards the Gulf of Mexico in preparation of spring spawning. Their spawning season usually starts in mid-April and ends in May but Atlantic bluefin tuna begin making their way for spawning beginning in March. The schools of Atlantic bluefin tuna headed for the Gulf of Mexico is another incredible signal of spring.

5. Black-footed Albatross

These seabirds don’t migrate during the beginning of the spring season but they do experience more movement during this time of year. In the late fall and winter, black-footed albatross remain on the coasts incubating their eggs for about 65 days. Come spring, they take turns chick-sitting and getting food. Black-footed albatross can be seen during this part of the year leaving their cozy coastal nests and going out to sea to provide food for their newborn chicks. Both parents (who mate for life) will take turns starting in March to go retrieve food to feed their baby. These birds are dedicated parents and partners.

These are just a few of the amazing species that show us spring is near. See more fun facts about all kinds of animals on our social media accounts. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn about the marine animals you love and to stay up to date on all things Ocean Conservancy!

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Ocean Plastic Pollution: Groundhog Day, But This Time with Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/15/ocean-plastic-pollution-groundhog-day-but-this-time-with-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/15/ocean-plastic-pollution-groundhog-day-but-this-time-with-sea-turtles/#comments Tue, 15 Sep 2015 18:08:27 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10737

Olive Ridley sea turtle. Photo by: Matthew Dolkas.

I got a kick out of Groundhog Day, the comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell that was released in 1993. With Murray waking each day to relive Groundhog Day alongside Punxsutawney Phil and his co-anchor, the movie was lighthearted and fun. But the science of ocean plastic pollution is starting to feel a lot like Groundhog Day. And the storyline is becoming much more troubling with each new publication.

This week a new study in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology calculates that over half of the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic; this follows on the heels of a publication last month by some of the same scientists that predicted that nearly all of the world’s seabirds would be contaminated with plastics by 2050 unless action is taken soon. With each new publication, the case for a global strategy to stem the tide of plastics into the world’s oceans becomes ever more vital.

Qamar Schuyler is lead author on this study alongside Chris Wilcox and Denise Hardesty (members of an independent scientific working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis that Ocean Conservancy convened in 2011) and four other ocean experts. The team applied the same analytical approach used in Dr. Wilcox’s seabird analysis, with disturbingly similar results. By integrating global maps of plastic in the ocean and sea turtle distribution, they showed that these endangered animals are most at risk of plastic ingestion in hotspots along the coastlines of southern China and Southeast Asia, and the east coasts of Australia, the United States and southern Africa. Olive Ridleys are the species at greatest risk because of its broad diet, oceanic life style, and its tendency to selectively ingest plastics. Kemp’s Ridleys are the species least at risk because of its tendency to eat animals that live on the bottom of the ocean, rather than forage at the ocean surface.

Due to limited data, the authors couldn’t determine the population and species level impacts of their findings; but given that as little as 0.5 gm of ingested plastic can kill a juvenile turtle, there is clearly cause for concern. Just as for seabirds, contamination rates for sea turtles have increased over time and Schuyler estimates that 52% of the world’s remaining sea turtles have plastics in their gut. That number is 62% for the world’s seabirds. Groundhog Day indeed.

At Ocean Conservancy, we are responding decisively to this onslaught of new science. We are now leading an effort to stem the tide of plastics from the regions that are the greatest source of plastics to the ocean, currently rapidly industrializing countries in Asia. Schuyler’s study confirms that this region is a critical beachhead in our campaign against ocean plastic pollution. Our team is also actively planning a November 2015 meeting of our Trash Free Seas Alliance ® to confront the consequences of this emerging science head-on and to advance plans to solve this problem at scale. The Alliance brings together conservationists, industry leaders, and scientists with a common purpose of keeping marine debris out of our ocean and waterways. Long the responsibility of individual consumers and cash-starved governments, plastics in the ocean is increasingly a problem that requires private sector leadership and resources to help solve, an issue that is at the center of our work with the Alliance.

The good news is Groundhog Day came to an end and Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell lived happily ever after. In the ocean, sea turtles and seabirds can have a happy ending too, but only if we collectively commit to stemming the tide of plastics that is increasingly contaminating the ocean’s wildlife.

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A Victory for Gulf Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/14/a-victory-for-gulf-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/14/a-victory-for-gulf-sea-turtles/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:32:54 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8747

Blair Witherington

Last September, we asked you to help us protect the Gulf’s sea turtles and today, I have some wonderful news to share. Thanks to more than 5,000 of our supporters, 685 miles of beaches and nearly 200,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico have now been declared critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles. The newly protected areas include floating Sargassum mats, where young sea turtles live and grow.

This victory is an important step toward a fully restored Gulf. During the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, tens of thousands of sea turtles were located in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico where oil accumulated at the surface. The BP oil disaster started during sea turtle nesting season, and as millions of barrels of oil bubbled up from the seafloor that summer, loggerhead sea turtles were returning to the Gulf Coast to lay their eggs. Almost 300 sea turtle nests had to be relocated from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast in 2010, in order for the young turtles to have a better chance at survival. This meant over 14,000 loggerhead sea turtles hatched along Atlantic Coast instead of their home beaches in the Gulf.

Several other environmental organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana played a key role in this victory. These groups took legal action, which forced the National Marine Fisheries Service to act.

Victories like this one inspire me to continue working towards a healthy Gulf. It proves that decision-makers are listening and it reminds me that together, we have the power to make a difference for the Gulf.

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Species Spotlight: Leatherback Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/30/species-spotlight-leatherback-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/30/species-spotlight-leatherback-sea-turtles/#comments Fri, 30 Nov 2012 15:00:19 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3632

The leatherback sea turtle has spent over 100 million years living beneath the ocean’s waves. It is the longest surviving and one of the largest reptiles on earth. With a heritage that goes back to the dinosaur era, the leatherback sea turtle’s impressive list of accomplishments is virtually unmatched.

Leatherback sea turtles:

  • Weigh in between 500 and 2,000 pounds
  • Can reach lengths from 4 to 8 feet long
  • Live up to 100 years
  • Dive to extreme depths, often deeper than 4,000 feet
  • Swim great distances, such as traveling over 7,000 miles

Leatherbacks are noticeably distinct from their sea turtle brethren: their heads are not retractable; their flippers do not have claws; and a specialized, rubbery and flexible carapace exists in place of a hard shell. A warming layer of fat as well as a relatively low metabolic rate and  ability to alter blood flow keeps the leatherback cozy in frigid water.

It should be no surprise, then, that the leatherback also has the distinction of being the most widely distributed sea turtle species in the world. Gliding through the vast waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea, leatherbacks go on an often-perilous journey to reproduce and obtain food.

Cruising for squid, sea squirts and jellyfish (whose tentacles they find a particular delicacy), the leatherback sea turtle utilizes its top secret weapon – backward-pointing spines that cover its mouth and throat. This prevents jellyfish from escaping before being swallowed as dinner.

The female leatherback deposits 60 to 120 eggs during each of the four to five trips she makes to shore per nesting season, often at the same location she was born; this is the only point in her life that she will leave the water. Male leatherbacks never return to shore after making that first momentous and hazardous journey from the nest across the beach and into the water after birth.

On the endangered species list since 1970, most leatherback nesting populations have plummeted more than 80 percent in the Pacific. Scientists estimate that only one in 1,000 hatchlings lives to see adulthood.

This frightening decline stems from habitat loss, boat strikes, the poaching of young turtles and eggs from nesting beaches for human consumption, environmental contamination from oil and gas exploration and extraction, death by injury or accidental drowning in fisheries, and death by ingestion of plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish.

Together, we can work to ensure that this 100-million-year-old marvel does not disappear forever. Ocean Conservancy is helping introduce shrimp fishing gear that helps prevent leatherback sea turtles and other wildlife from being caught and killed incidentally. And our International Coastal Cleanup helps remove millions of pounds of trash from beaches and waterways each year, preventing leatherbacks and other wildlife from accidentally ingesting it.

With your support, Ocean Conservancy can make an enormous impact on the lives of these truly remarkable sea turtles.

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How to help an injured animal http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/09/how-to-help-an-injured-animal/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/09/how-to-help-an-injured-animal/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2012 20:15:17 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1374

Note: After receiving questions from readers, I have written a follow-up post here.

While on vacation, I came across a crab entangled in a fishing net at a local, beachside restaurant.  My time working with crustaceans in science laboratories and in the field gave me the necessary familiarity with their movements and behaviors to handle the animal without hurting it or myself. Armed with this knowledge, I quickly and carefully untangled the piece of fishing net that had wound up tightly on the crab and placed him gently back on the local beach.

Without the proper qualifications, attempting to help a hurt animal in the wild could result in further injury. So what should you do if you encounter an entangled animal at the beach?

In cases of marine crustaceans, I wouldn’t recommend picking up a live crab because it’s still a wild animal and you don’t have to be a biologist to know those pinches hurt. The best way to help them is to reduce the chances of entanglement by keeping trash off the beach. If a crab or other small animal is no longer alive (and it doesn’t gross you out), consider disposing of the garbage entangling the animal to protect larger scavengers (such as seabirds) from suffering a similar fate at mealtime.

If you see a sick, injured, or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, please report the animal by calling a stranding center nearest you. Do not touch or move the animal because you could further injure the animal and also hurt yourself. Keep other people and pets at least 50 feet away from the animal because getting too close could stress the animal. Check out The Marine Mammal Center’s seven steps to help a stranded marine mammal for more information.

Many animal injuries are preventable. Most importantly, you and I have the power to reduce those injuries. As the summer rolls on, remember to properly dispose trash (including fishing lines), admire wildlife from a safe distance and enjoy the water!

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How to Help Save Sea Turtles on World Turtle Day http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/23/how-to-help-save-sea-turtles-on-world-turtle-day/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/23/how-to-help-save-sea-turtles-on-world-turtle-day/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 19:54:34 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=760

Credit: NOAA

This is a guest post from our intern, Katie Tehan.

Happy World Turtle Day! 

In honor of the special day, I thought it might be fitting to celebrate one of our world’s oldest creatures. If you’ve ever had the fortune of seeing a sea turtle in its natural habitat, then you will understand why it is important that we stick our necks out to protect them.

It was not until after I got the chance to volunteer in a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center in Topsail, North Carolina that the severity of the risks facing them became a reality for me.

The hospital is run completely on a volunteer basis, and at the time was nursing 26 sea turtles that had been victims of hypothermia, pneumonia, bycatch, shark attacks, or boating incidents. One sea turtle in particular, named Riptide, swallowed a large fishing hook, which was trapped in his throat, making it impossible to eat. After surgery, Riptide made a full recovery and was released. Sadly, many of the other sea turtles at the hospital would not be able to survive in the ocean, and will spend the rest of their lives in tanks.

Did you know global warming greatly impacts sea turtle development? Studies show that global warming has resulted in decreased hatching rates, and could possibly lead to complete nest failure. And here’s an interesting fact: Increased sand temperatures alter the natural sex ratio of sea turtles, creating more females. In addition, young sea turtles rely on currents to locate prey, but climate change has begun to influence migratory species adding difficulty to their survival. Birds, ghost crabs, and fish are just a few of the predators newly born sea turtles face which is why some scientists estimate only one hatchling out of 1,000 will make it to adulthood.

As summer approaches, sea turtles begin making nests on various beaches throughout the world. As a part of the upcoming nesting season, it is important that we make an effort to keep our coasts clean and protect the fragile nests. You can join the effort to protect sea turtles by always picking up your trash before leaving the beach and turning off beachfront lighting that can interfere with the sea turtles’ path toward the natural light of the ocean horizon. Go even further by taking Ocean Conservancy’s 30 Day Trash-Free Challenge to help us stop trash before it starts.

If you’re interested in volunteering for a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center, learn more here.

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