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Photo: © Mike Parry/Minden Pictures

Five major hazards threaten sea turtles, all of which are the direct results of human behavior. As these pressures increase, they trigger population declines and local extinctions.

Fisheries: The impacts of fisheries – including their longlines, gill nets, and trawls – affect sea turtles almost everywhere. Among the most severe of these impacts are habitat destruction, disruptions to the food web, and incidental capture – or bycatch – which often leads to death.

Coastal development: Sea turtle habitats are degraded and destroyed by coastal development. Construction along shorelines damages the beaches sea turtles rely on for nesting, while ship traffic and sea floor dredging alter the vegetation of their undersea habitats.

Climate change: The effects of climate change may upset the natural ratio of male to female hatchlings, as higher temperatures during incubation tend to produce more females. Melting ice caps cause sea levels to rise, and resulting erosion disturbs nesting beaches. In all, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, changing ocean currents, and extreme weather patterns cause adverse effects on sea turtles, their habitats, and the fundamental oceanographic processes on which they rely.

Direct take: Throughout the world, people hunt and kill sea turtles and collect their eggs for food and other products, such as oil, leather, and shell.

Pollution and pathogens: Marine pollution has a direct impact on sea turtles. Many die when they ingest or become entangled in waste, including plastics, discarded fishing gear, petroleum by-products, and other debris. Light pollution disrupts nesting behavior and hatchlings' ability to find their way to the sea, which may lead to their death. Chemical pollutants can weaken sea turtles' immune systems, making them more susceptible to disease.

Resources and Links
CI Wide
CABS: www.biodiversityscience.org
Priority Areas: Key Marine Regions

On The Web
The State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWoT)
IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group
IUCN Species Survival Commission
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Publications & Downloads
Report: The State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWoT) (PDF–3.2mb)
Poster: Ten Most Threatened Sea Turtles in the World (PDF–705kb)


© Asghar Mobaraki
Sea turtles, like this hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), become entangled in fishing and trawl nets and often die as a result.

© Mitsuaki Iwago/Minden Pictures
The effects of climate change may upset the natural ratio of male to female hatchlings.

© Matthew Godfrey
Improper coastal development threatens sea turtles by disrupting their nesting beaches.

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Photo credits for banner images: (Greater Flamingos © Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures); (Diagonal-banded Sweetlips © Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures);
(Madagascar Aloe © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures); (Hippo © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures); (Hummingbird © Pete Oxford); (Malagasy Frog © Piotr Naskrecki/CI)