The recent movement towards banning single-use plastics has undoubtedly been spurred on by the alarming situation with sea turtles which is rising in awareness. People have begun a war against plastic bags and straws, which is a huge step in helping to protect the sea turtles, and there is still plenty more you can do if you are planning a beach holiday.
Why Do We Need to Help Turtles?
Turtles are an ancient and majestic species, pre-dating the dinosaurs 245 million years ago, but now all 7 species of sea turtle are threatened or endangered, reports Nova Southeastern University. The biggest cause of their endangerment is the poaching for their meat, shells and eggs. Bycatch, ocean pollution and boat strikes are all also major contributors.
According to Pebble Mag, eight million metric tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year, which is extremely worrying for sea life who inadvertently digest it. Get Green Now reports that 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals die every year because of ingesting plastic. Plastic bags are especially harmful to turtles who can mistake them for jellyfish and choke on them or starve to death. Plastic is not a natural material, it does not belong in the ocean, so saying no to a bag with your shopping or a plastic straw in your drink is a great first step in helping marine wildlife.
Bycatch is when sea turtles or other marine animals are injured or killed unintentionally while attempting to catch other targeted species. Turtles are very often the victim of this, finding themselves trapped in fishing nets that have been abandoned. At home, you can help prevent this by only consuming responsibly sourced seafood. This encourages safe fishing practices that consider and prevent bycatch.
Helping on Holiday
Minimising plastic waste at home is a good start to becoming eco-friendlier, but when you travel to a beach you can have a more direct effect on helping turtles that come to shore, which can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
Do Not Disturb
This is perhaps the most obvious way to help, but it ensures that nesting turtles are not spooked into going back to the ocean without laying their eggs. If you happen to come across a nesting turtle, try to contact a conservation charity straight away. Your chosen place to stay should be able to help you with this. Check out our eco-friendly hotels and lodges to find a place to stay that truly cares about its local environment.
Clean Up After Yourself (and Others)
After a lovely day at the beach, relaxing and soaking up the sun, it’s best to make sure to take all of your recreational gear and waste with you. Chairs, umbrella, trash and other items can all create obstacles for baby turtles trying to find their way to the sea. If you really want to have a good impact, you could get involved with clean-up operations that take place on beaches. It’s not only a good way to learn more and meet new, like-minded people, but you are doing something great for the environment.
Turtles follow moonlight to find their way back to the ocean, if there are other impressive sources of light, they are likely to follow these and go the wrong way. This can lead them to starvation and predation. It is recommended that if your lodgings are near a beach, you should turn off any external lights and close the blinds to minimise light output. If you need to use a torch, cover it with red cellophane so that it is less offensive and distracting to the animals
Keep the Sand Clear
It may not seem it, but something as innocent as a sandcastle can be harmful to a sea turtle. Big obtrusions in the sand such as sandcastles or holes can create obstacles for turtles trying to reach the ocean. Beach fires are also damaging as even residual heat can disorientate the turtles and cause them to head towards the fire. When you are leaving the beach, try and make sure that the sand around you is clear and flat so the new babies have the best chance of reaching the ocean.
If you are planning to fish on holiday, we would recommend that you are fully educated on how to do so without causing harm to the environment. It is best to research the area thoroughly beforehand. Be sure to keep an eye out for turtles that appear near the surface, polarised glasses can help with this. If you do spot a turtle or a swarm of jellyfish, signalling that a turtle might be nearby, slow down your boat or even turn off the engine. Try to maintain at least fifty feet between you and the animal as boat collisions can be very damaging to turtles, even the larger ones. Once you have finished your trip, make sure that you take all of your fishing gear with you so that the animals can swim freely.
Keep Up the Good Work!
Although it is hard to see the positive effects of abandoning plastic, it is making a huge difference and will continue to do so as plastic becomes more and more frequent. If you are planning a beach holiday, it will provide you with a great opportunity to go even further in helping to save the turtles and contribute to their population numbers, which are finally growing thanks to a lot of hard work by dedicated conservationists and laws put in place to protect the beautiful creatures.
Kiwano can help you towards the first step of becoming a green traveller by providing a list of approved green accommodations for you to stay at and giving you further tips on how to stay green as a traveller.