Dr Ccile Gaspar of French Polynesia asks: Q: What is the situation of green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles in the world? A:
Sea turtles are among the most threatened, yet poorly understood creatures of the ocean, says Roderic Mast, Vice President at Conservation International and Director of CIs Sea Turtle Flagship Program. All but one of the world's seven species of sea turtles are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered on the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Sea turtles have long been a part of coastal peoples diets wherever the animals occur, and hunting remains a substantial threat to green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas
) in many areas. The shell of the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricat
a) was once prized by the fashion industry for its characteristic tortoise shell pattern. Additional threats to sea turtles and their habitats come from marine pollution (especially ingestible plastics), industrial fishing, and coastal development, including beach lighting, which affects turtles nesting, feeding, and migratory habitats.
of Pacific leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea
) that nest on beaches from Mexico south to Panama have been drastically reduced by years of uncontrolled egg collection and a dramatic increase in their incidental capture by fisheries. In the June 2000 issue of Nature
, scientists reported that the population of leatherbacks nesting at Playa Grande, Costa Rica
had dwindled by more than 90 percent in just a decade. Off the Pacific coast of Mexico, fewer than 100 remain.
Our success in conserving turtles
hinges on preserving the ecosystems that support them the sea itself, says Mast. Sea turtles are flagship species
for the sea
they help us communicate to the public
about the complexities of marine conservation."