SWOT Report

Top Ten Burning Issues in Global Sea Turtle Conservation:


1) Leatherbacks in the Pacific
Current Status: Major populations in Mexico, Costa Rica and Malaysia have declined more than 90% in less than 20 years.
Causes: Fisheries bycatch (gillnets, driftnets, longline fishing), long-term egg collection


2) Olive Ridleys in Orissa, India
Current Status: A minimum of 10,000 adults have been killed each year for the past 10 years.
Causes: Trawl fisheries bycatch and coastal development


3) Kemp’s Ridleys throughout their range (Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic)
Current Status: Kemp’s Ridleys have declined more than 95% in less than 50 years. They live within a limited geographic range and have a small population size, making them especially vulnerable.
Causes: Egg take, bycatch in trawl fisheries


4)Loggerheads in the Pacific
Current Status: Nesting in the Pacific (principally Japan and Australia) has declined by more than 90% over the last 25 years.
Causes: Fisheries bycatch (gillnets, longlines, trawls and pound nets), direct take of eggs and turtles

5) Green turtles in the Mediterranean
Current Status: In the major rookeries, located in Turkey, populations have declined by 60-90% in 17 years.
Causes: Coastal development, fisheries bycatch (trawls and gillnets), historical take of meat for export

6) All sea turtles throughout Southeast Asia
Current Status: Hawksbills, green turtles, and olive ridleys have all suffered substantial declines in nesting in this region.
Causes: Direct take of adults and eggs for food and shell trade, fisheries bycatch (trawls, gillnets, pound nets, longlines)


7) Loggerheads in the Atlantic
Current Status: At the major rookery at Archie Carr Refuge in Florida, USA, nesting has declined by more than 50% in the last five years.
Causes: Fisheries bycatch (trawls, gillnets and longlines), coastal development


8) Hawksbill and green turtles in the Caribbean
Current Status: Greens have declined by more than 95% in the last 400 years. The loss of a number of rookeries has significantly reduced genetic diversity of greens, and current take of adult green turtles is greater than 11,000 per year in Nicaragua. Hawksbill nesting has declined by more than 60% at the largest rookery, located in Mexico, in the last five years.
Causes: Directed take for meat and eggs


9) Greens and leatherbacks in the Eastern Atlantic (and their SW Atlantic foraging grounds
Current Status: Globally significant nesting and foraging populations are virtually unstudied and threatened by substantial take due to extreme local poverty. Leatherbacks from Atlantic African nesting beaches also face great pressure from fisheries off the coasts of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
Causes: Direct take for meat, eggs and products, and fisheries bycatch


10) Hawksbills in the Indian Ocean
Current Status: Trade statistics going back more than 100 years indicate massive declines of up to 95% in hawksbill populations, specifically in Madagascar, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.
Causes: Historic international trade in hawksbill shell, especially between the mid-1960s and early 1990s greatly reduced the sizes of hawksbill populations. Directed take of meat, eggs, and/or shell continues throughout the region. More recently, coastal development of nesting beaches poses an increasing threat to nesting populations.


Hazards to Sea Turtles

The following are the broad hazards that are presently resulting in declines and local extinctions of sea turtles, or are in one way or another slowing or preventing sea turtle recovery. 

Fisheries Impacts: Fisheries—especially longlines, gill nets and trawls—impact sea turtles virtually everywhere.  Bycatch mortality, habitat destruction and food web changes are the most severe of these impacts.

Coastal Development: Coastal development alters, damages and destroys sea turtle habitats through nesting beach degradation, seafloor dredging, vessel traffic, construction, and alteration of vegetation.

Direct Take: Throughout the world, people kill sea turtles and consume their eggs for food and for products such as oil, leather and shell.

Pollution and Pathogens: Marine pollution—plastics, discarded fishing gear, petroleum by-products, and other debris—directly impact sea turtles through ingestion and entanglement.  Light pollution disrupts nesting behavior and hatchling orientation, leading to hatchling mortality.  Chemical pollutants can weaken sea turtles’ immune systems, making them susceptible to pathogens.   

Global Warming: Global warming may impact natural sex ratios of hatchlings; escalate the frequency of extreme weather events; increase the likelihood of disease outbreaks among sea turtles; and result in loss of nesting beaches, destruction of coral reefs and other alterations critical to sea turtle habitats and basic oceanographic processes.