A. Legal protection for sea turtles.
1. All eight species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered on the U.S. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants List. It is illegal to harm, or in any way interfere with , a sea turtle or its eggs.
2. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty developed in 1973 to regulate trade in certain wildlife species. CITES protects all species of sea turtles. The U.S. and 115 other countries have banned the import or export of sea turtle products.
B. Turtle Excluder Device.
1. At a cost of millions of dollars, the National Marine Fisheries Service developed the Turtle Excluder Device (TED).
2. The TED is a small, metal grid trapdoor inside a trawling net that allows shrimp to pass to the back while the turtles escape to safety before becoming entrapped or entangled.
3. Since 1989, federal law requires that this device be installed on the nets of all U.S. fishing trawlers working in areas populated by sea turtles.
C. Protecting nests.
1. Nests can be protected from predators by placing screens over them. Eggs laid too close to the water or in erosion zones can be relocated to safer areas.
2. In a bold conservation program, the townspeople of a small Costa Rican village are allowed to gather eggs laid during the first two nights of each olive ridley arribada. Scientists have calculated that a controlled harvest would leave enough protected eggs to rejuvenate the population (in one nesting season, 20 to 30 million olive ridley eggs may be laid in this beach village) while allowing villagers to maintain a livelihood. The program has the potential to stop poachers of other eggs on other beaches by keeping the prices of the "legal" eggs too low for poachers to compete.
Although eliminating beach lighting would be the most effective way to reduce disorientation of hatchlings, studies have shown that low pressure sodium vapor lights have a lesser effect on loggerhead and green sea turtle hatchlings. Many beach communities have encouraged the use of these lights.
E. Wildlife refuges.
1. Legislation is underway to allocate government funding for the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on the east coast of Florida, between Melbourne Beach and Vero Beach. Full protection of the refuge would cost a total of $90 million dollars, of which $50 million would come from state and local sources. As of 1994, federal funding has reached $7 million.
a. This 33-km (20.5 mile) section of beach is the most important nesting site for loggerheads in the Western Hemisphere.
b. The refuge is the most important nesting beach in the United States for the green sea turtle.
c. The refuge also is considered prime real estate for commercial development, making government funding essential to its preservation.
2. The governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica have established, and are striving to expand, national parks and biological reserves where sea turtles forage and nest. Tortuguero, Costa Rica maintains the largest green sea turtle rookery in the Caribbean. Local economics is no longer based on turtle harvests, but on tourism. More than 15,000 visitors are expected each year.
F. Managing sex ratios.
Most conservationists believe that abundant nesting females are desirable to rejuvenate sea turtle populations. Researchers with Reproductive Sciences, Inc. and Reptile Conservation International have developed, and are patenting, a technique of applying an estrogen solution onto eggs to produce a higher number of females under normal incubation.
G. In zoological environments.
1. Having sea turtles at marine zoological parks provides an opportunity for the public to learn, up-close, about these animals and how human activities may impact their survival.
2. In the protected environment of a marine zoological park, scientists can examine aspects of sea turtle biology that are difficult or impossible to study in the wild.
3. Sea World of Florida treats numerous green and loggerhead sea turtles each year.
a. Sea turtles often are brought in after a cold weather snap. Low water temperatures cause a sea turtle's metabolism to slow - the hypothermic turtles become sluggish and are unable to feed. marine patrol officers may find the turtles floating at the surface of the water in a semi-dormant state.
b. In December 1989, 95 hypothermic green sea turtles were rescued from Florida's Merritt Island. These turtles were housed in recovery pools at Sea World of Florida for about 10 weeks. Once the weather warmed up, the turtles were released in the same area that they were rescued.
c. Sea World has rescued other sea turtles with injuries resulting from entanglement, motorboat collisions, ocean dredging, or ingestion of non-food items.
4. Data gathered through the Sea World Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program and similar programs can help scientists more accurately assess and recommend sea turtle population management programs in the wild.
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