Sea Turtles Look Ahead to 2017

Earthzine2016 Monthly Focus Topics, Original

A marine scientist holding a hawksbill sea turtle. Image Credit: K. Holmes/WCS

Sea turtle! That’s what the character on Baby Einstein used to shout years ago, when my kids were still watching educational videos geared toward developing brains.
Now my daughters are in their teens and I’m getting older. And as my wife will tell you, I’m also getting more grumpy and pessimistic.
So sometimes it’s hard to have hope, especially at the end of a year like 2016.
Thankfully, the folks at the Ocean Conservancy made me smile the other day, with a dose of “ocean optimism.”
That’s the hashtag the organization was using on Twitter.
The story the conservancy shared, from via the Wildlife Conservation Society, tells the tale of a refuge in Belize that’s helping foster a new generation of sea turtles.
Scientists report that coral reefs surrounding Glover’s Reef Atoll in Belize are home to more than 1,000 juvenile hawksbill sea turtles, a threatened species.
A bunch of good people got together and helped make this happen.
The Wildlife Conservation Society worked with the Belize Fisheries Department and others in the area to create a conservation plan for the site, selecting the hawksbill as one of the target species.
The turtles are on a Red List of Threatened Species due to intensive harvest of their shells, meat and eggs.
The atoll, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Reserve System, is the second-largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere. It’s also a World Heritage Site, which means it’s been recognized by the United Nations and is legally protected by international treaties.

A dozen snorkel surveys from 2007 to 2013 documented the number of juvenile turtles in the refuge, estimated at more than 1,000. They’re tracked with satellite tags and expected to have a “survival probability” of 97.5 percent.
In other words, the odds of these Belize ocean-goers growing into old dads, and moms, are high. Sea turtle!
Jeff Kart is managing editor for IEEE Earthzine. Follow him on Twitter @jeffkart.