Sea turtle populations have been seriously reduced world-wide through a number of human influences including: artificial lighting, plastic and marine debris, beach erosion and coastal armoring, and commercial fishing. Other influences include: illegal sea turtle shell trade, oil spills, harvest for consumption, marine pollution, beach activities, and climate change. Natural pressures on sea turtles include predation. For these reasons all species of sea turtle are in an imperiled state that warrants legal protection.
Beach furniture can obstruct and entangle nesting sea turtles but there are some simple steps to take that can reduce these potential impacts:
- Remove furniture from the beach every night by hand when possible
- Stack and arrange furniture to minimize interference
- Place furniture on the beach after 9 am to allow time for the sea turtle surveyors to monitor the area for new nests
- Place furniture at least five feet from any marked nest
- Avoid placing furniture on vegetation or any part of a dune feature
- Use umbrellas that clamp directly to the furniture or place the umbrella pole into an anchored holder or sleeve turtle tracks over furniture
Although sea turtles can be agile in the water, on land they are not very mobile making them more susceptible to predation. Even in a natural environment, sea turtles, particularly eggs and hatchlings, face a myriad of threats from predators. Before even hatching, eggs are exposed to predators such as: raccoons, crabs, ants, coyotes and boars, which raid nests and destroy eggs. In certain “hot spots” throughout the United States, up to 50 percent of all sea turtle nests are destroyed as a result of predation. However, natural predation in Escambia County impacts less than 10 percent of the nesting population. Humans sometimes unwillingly contribute to this problem by leaving trash/food on commonly nested beaches, attracting raccoons and other potential predators. Additionally, dogs have dug up sea turtle nests and can attack hatchlings so it is important to keep them on a leash during nesting season.
When hatchlings enter the ocean, predation threats remain high as they make convenient snacks for birds, crabs, certain fish and other oceanic creatures. Young sea turtles have been known to use the seaweed they feed on as shelter from these potential predators. Once reaching the adult stage, which is not exactly an easy task, sea turtles are comparably far less vulnerable to predators besides the occasional shark attack. Specifically, tiger sharks have been known to eat sea turtles every now and then while killer whales have been known to sometimes attack leatherback sea turtles. Overall, these natural threats are not the predominant reason why sea turtle populations have been diminishing, as they have endured predation for over 100 million years.