Climate Change a Triple Whammy for Endangered Sea Turtles
An Environmental Article from All-Creatures.org
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
An newly revised report about the threats to sea turtles from global
warming and climate change was released today during international
negotiations in Copenhagen by Sea Turtle Restoration Project.
Climate change due to global warming is a triple whammy for sea turtles
and their unique life cycle:
- Rises in ocean levels mean that sandy beaches where sea turtles lay
their nests are getting submerged under waves and water. This prevents
adult sea turtles from returning to the beaches where they hatched to
repeat their ancient nesting ritual.
- Hotter sand temperatures result in mostly female sea turtle
hatchlings. Without enough males, the species cannot survive. And if the
nest sand is much too hot, no eggs will hatch at all.
- Changes to ocean currents, temperature and acidification are likely
to throw sea turtles far off normal migrations and alter food
availability and abundance.
CLIMATE CHANGE TAKING A TOLL
Leatherback sea turtles have been named one of the Top 10 species most
threatened by climate change in the U. S. in a report titled “America’s
Hottest Species.” Even now, we are beginning to see signs that increased
global temperatures will have a devastating impact on sea turtles.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Climate change will have an impact on sea turtle populations and the people
who share beaches and waters with them. This impact is magnified by the
continued threats to sea turtles and human communities from industrial
fishing, coastal development, and unsustainable direct harvest.
There are two main ways to reduce the impacts of climate change: reduce
climate change emissions and strengthen the ability of endangered sea
turtles and their ecosystems to survive climate change.
To reduce climate emissions, the U. S. and partner nations should lead the
- Convince wealthy industrialized countries (listed in “Annex I”) to
agree to at least 40 percent cuts in emissions domestically by 2020, by
using green energy, sustainable transport and farming and cutting energy
- Adopt a moratorium and phase-out of coal-fired power stations.
- Analyze and drastically reduce the global warming impacts of
industrialized fisheries, particularly wasteful longline fisheries
benefitting from fuel subsidies and government grants.
- Implement a carbon tax and 100% dividend, as defined by NASA
scientist James Hansen as “a mechanism for putting a price on carbon
without raising money for government coffers. The idea is to tax carbon
at source, then redistribute the revenue equally among taxpayers, so
high carbon users are penalized while low carbon users are rewarded.”
- Not allow cuts to be achieved by buying carbon credits from
developing countries or by buying forest in developing countries to
'offset' ongoing emissions in the industrialized world.
- Fund, develop and promote increased energy efficiency.
- Commit rich countries to providing additional money for developing
countries to grow in a clean way, and to cope with the floods, droughts
and famines caused by climate change while ensuring that this money is
distributed fairly and transparently.
- Consider and protect the rights of indigenous people and communities
in all climate change actions and policies, ensuring climate justice
To strengthen the ability of endangered sea turtles to survive climate
change, the U. S. should:
- Require analysis, regulation, avoidance, and mitigation of
greenhouse gas and global warming impacts under existing environmental
- Shift national endangered species conservation strategies to address
the overarching threat of global warming
- Develop new laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate
global warming impacts on biodiversity.
- Analyze, regulate, avoid and mitigate greenhouse gas and global
warming impacts of U. S. fisheries and evaluate and prevent those
impacts on sea turtles and other species – wasteful longline and shrimp
trawl fisheries in particular.
- Respond to TIRN petition to ban the import of swordfish that does
not meet minimal U. S. fishing regulations.
- Establish critical habitat for the Western Pacific leatherback along
the U. S. West Coast to protect key migratory and foraging habitat -
which is required by law and has never been done.
- Designate North Pacific loggerheads (which nest in Japan but forage
in Southern California and Baja) as a distinct population and to
strengthen their status from threatened to endangered under the
Endangered Species Act.
- Designate Western North Atlantic loggerheads (which nest in Florida
and Georgia) as a distinct population and to strengthen their status
from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act and
increase protections in the loggerheads' key nesting beaches and marine
- Establish a permanent, year-round no-trawl marine reserve along the
South Texas coast to ensure long-term survival of the Kemp’s Ridley sea
- Extend beach protections to include buffer zones in dune habitat to
accommodate rise in sea levels.
- Increase protections for all critical sea turtle nesting, foraging
and migratory habitat, including the implementation of marine protected
areas and time/area closures.
- Reduce impacts of non-climate related threats, such as bycatch in
industrial fishing gear, plastic bag pollution, and development on
critical nesting beaches.
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