The t-shirt you just ordered could change the lives of our frippery friends!! Today, there are six species of sea turtles that nest at the Outer Banks. A portion of the money you pay for a shirt will be donated to N.E.S.T., a non-profit organization that helps the sea turtles on the Outer Banks, NC. N.E.S.T. stands for Network for Endangered Sea Turtles. Our donations help pay for veterinary bills, purchase rehabilitation supplies, and cover transportation costs. To find out more about what N.E.S.T. does, CLICK HERE.
You might be wondering why the sea turtles need your help. Here are some threats that are impacting turtle populations:
When baby sea turtles hatch, they rely on moonlight to find the ocean because most sea turtles hatch during the night. Beach houses with lights that face the beach look a lot like the moon to a newly hatched sea turtle, which results in the turtles never making it to sea.
Turn off any lights that face the ocean!
Marine pollutants such as toxic metals, PCBs, fertilizers, chemicals, and some petroleum products can harm sea turtles both directly and indirectly. They can cause serious health issues, and kill the turtles' food. Oil is very harmful. Even though it doesn't tend to stick to turtles, oil can still get in their eyes, skin, and lungs, which can cause serious health problems. Oil also kills seagrass, which is a main part of the green sea turtle's diet. The hawksbill sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, and Kemp's ridley sea turtles' diets all contain certain sponges and invertebrates. Sponges and invertebrates have suffered population losses due to oil, and turtles have also been found to grow weak and vulnerable after extended exposure to oil. There is also the problem of tar ingestion, which can lead to swelling that can dislocate intestines and liver. Contamination of the turtles' food can have effects on the digestive tract. If sea turtle eggs get exposed to oil the chances of survival are greatly decreased as the hatchlings will most likely have physical deformities.
Make sure you aren't using too much fertilizer on your flowers, because excess fertilizer can run off into the ocean. Just a small act like this will decrease the amount of harmful toxins in our waters!
Trash such as plastic bags resemble jellyfish, a common source of food for sea turtles. If a turtle eats it, the plastic can clog its digestive system, and it can kill the turtle.
Keep track of your trash! If you see litter laying around, pick it up. Even if you don't live close to the ocean, the trash will wind up there eventually.
Lots of people will travel to see sea turtles. This can result in tourists trying to steal turtles, boat collisions, and other accidents. Some tourists have even tried taking selfies with turtles, which can lead to confusion.
Have you ever heard, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints"? If you see a turtle, don't disturb it! Taking pictures is okay as long as you don't use a flash, or get too close.
Over 8 million sea turtles have died in the past 20 years because of injuries caused by fishing boats. Most fishing boats use nets and hook systems that catch everything nearby, including sea turtles, dolphins, or even sharks. When turtles are caught in one of these nets, they often die drowning ensnared in the nets because they can't come up for air. Sea turtles also accidently swallow fish hooks that get caught in their stomachs.
There isn't as much you can do unless you are a commercial fisherman. If you are a fisherman though, you can install TEDs, Turtle Excluder Devices, to your nets, and you can also switch from "J" hooks to circle hooks. These small acts save lots of turtle lives! If you aren't a fisherman, you can show your support for companies and countries using TEDs. You can also make sure you are buying fish from turtle-friendly fisheries.
In other countries sea turtles are killed for their meat, shells, and leather flippers. Turtle eggs are also considered a delicacy in some cultures.
Don't eat sea turtle meat! The shells are also sometimes made into jewelry, so make sure you don't buy turtle shell jewelry.
Another threat to sea turtle populations is fibropapillomatosis, a disease that manifests through tumors on a sea turtle's skin. They can grow so large that they can hinder a sea turtle's ability to see, eat, and even to swim.
Sadly, there isn't much we can do about a disease, but if you buy a shirt or donate money to turtle conservation efforts, the money can help researchers figure out the cause of the disease.
Why do we care so much about the future of sea turtles? In the ocean, sea turtles are one of the few creatures that eat sea grass. Sea grass needs to be constantly cut short to grow across the ocean floor. Lots of animals live in the sea grass and depend on it. If sea turtles go extinct, sea grass would become very scarce and unhealthy. Without the health of the sea grass, lower levels of the food chain would eventually become extinct, affecting the higher levels of the food chain as well. Sea turtles also use beaches and dunes to lay their eggs in. When hatched eggs decompose, nutrients are added to the sand. These nutrients are important for dune vegetation to grow. Strong root systems help keep beaches from erosion.