Here at Crab Island Watersports, we are not only watersport lovers, but consider ourselves animal lovers as well! We’ve briefly touched on the Flora & Fauna that call our beautiful Emerald Coast home, but we have yet to address the urgent topic that threatens our beloved wildlife, the endangered animals in Florida that are in danger of extinction.
Continue reading to learn more about four unique and vital Florida Sea Turtles that are in danger of extinction, and what you can do to help save them.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
The first endangered species in Florida on our list is the Hawksbill Sea Turtle. These endangered beauties are critically endangered, which according to the WWF, means that the species is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Their beak-like mouth identifies them, and their carapace (upper shell section) can get up to 35 inches long, and their weight can get anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds! Due to their attractive black and yellow with brown or black streaks on their carapace, sadly, in parts of the world, they are in extinction as their beautiful carapaces are used to create genuine “tortoiseshell” jewelry.
Here in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the main threat to Hawksbill Sea Turtles is accidentally getting caught up in shrimp or fishing nets. Other human-caused threats are coastal development and oil spills. Why do these eye-catching turtles matter so much? Hawksbill Sea Turtles play an essential role in the marine ecosystem as they are known to eliminate prey, such as sponges from the coral reef’s surface, as a result playing a pivotal role in maintaining the health of coral reefs. A couple of things you can do to help this critically endangered species survive are becoming vocal about change through WWF’s Action Center and making a symbolic turtle adoption that goes directly to the WWF’s worldwide conservation efforts!
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Next up on our list is the Leatherback Sea Turtle. If you thought a 100-200 pound turtle
sounded big, the Leatherback Sea Turtle feels out-of-this-world large as they are the largest sea turtle species in the world, weighing a whopping 600 to 1,500 pounds with a length of between 55 and 63 inches. Another fun fact about these resilient turtles is that they are one of the most migratory turtle species. They are known to travel across the Atlantic to the Pacific, with some even swimming over 10,000 miles a year!
Currently, they hold a vulnerable status as an endangered species, the lowest category of the three levels of endangered species. According to the WWF, a vulnerable species faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. Although they are globally considered in vulnerable status, in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic, they are at the most extreme level of endangered species critically endangered.
So, why is this such a big deal? Leatherback Sea Turtles are an impressively resilient breed, as they have existed on Earth for the last 100 million years. Apart from this impressive fact, they also play a vital role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. Leatherbacks are known to eat jellyfish in large quantities, which as a result, helps keep the jellyfish population at a healthy amount. Aside from their pivotal role in marine ecosystems, they are also economically significant as they attract ecotourism in places such as the Coral Triangle.
Similar to the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, simple but meaningful actions such as speaking up through WWF’s Action Center and making a symbolic turtle adoption to financially contribute to the WWF’s mission to save this hundred-million-year-old turtle from extinction hold the possibility of making a big difference!
Green Sea Turtle
Although the next turtle on our list is called the Green Sea Turtle, its outer shells are black and white, they get its name because its body fat is green. Interesting fact, Green Sea Turtles are primarily herbivores, which is where they get their green color. Unfortunately, the dish Green Turtle Soup was once very popular. Thankfully, at least in the U.S., you will no longer find Green Turtle Soup as they are an endangered species, but in some parts of the world, the consumption of Green Turtles is still a problem.
Green Sea Turtles mostly call subtropical and temperate oceans home, and a large amount of Green Turtles can be found in the western Atlantic oceans in Florida. These green creatures are essential to the marine ecosystem thanks to their herbivore status. Since they munch primarily on seagrasses and algae, this keeps the seagrass beds more productive and healthy. Another interesting fact is that the seagrass eaten by green turtles is digested so quickly that it is recycled back into the ecosystem, becoming available as recycled nutrients to all the plants and animals in the seagrass ecosystem.
These may seem like small, tiny details. Still, the health of Seagrass beds is also vital to many fish and invertebrates, which are essential for commercial fisheries, making them important in providing food for us humans! Ironically enough, they are endangered by getting caught in fishing gear, losing nesting beach sites, and overharvesting their eggs. The same actions through the WWF of speaking up and adopting a turtle can be done to help save this important species!
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
The last endangered species on our list is the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, named for its noticeably large head. These endangered turtles are found in our Sunshine State and call the beaches of Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Libya home. Similar to the other turtles mentioned, they are large and can reach a weight of 400 pounds and a length of 48 inches. The threat of extinction of Loggerhead Sea Turtles is problematic as Loggerheads are known to have colonies of tiny plants and animals living on their shells. In fact, up to 100 species of small animals and plants have been found on just one Loggerhead shell. Aside from serving as a home to a handful of small marine species and plants, the Loggerhead keeps the ocean floor sediments in perfect harmony, playing another critical role in maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem.
A handful of the reasons the Loggerhead Sea Turtle is endangered are getting caught in fishing gear, the loss and degradation of their nesting habitat, the harvest of Turtles and their eggs, Ocean pollution, and Climate Change. What can you do to help save the Loggerhead Sea Turtles? A few simple things you can do are reduce ocean trash, keep your distance from the sea turtles, help protect their habitat by avoiding driving on turtle-nesting beaches, and remove beach equipment after a fun day on the beach.
Eager to spot one of these four sea turtle species in their natural habitat? Count on us for a Pontoon boat experience, which is the perfect option for your Sea Turtle Viewing mission, as they are quiet, and will not disturb the wildlife. Learn more about our Pontoon Boat options and book your boat!