Green sea turtles rebound due to Endangered Species Act

Kari Kimball, Contributing Writer

Green sea turtles, or Chelonia mydas, have been on the endangered species list since 1978. There are now signs that the species is recovering.

Recently, there have been more sightings of green sea turtles around Hawaii by an average of eight percent each year since 2002. The number of green sea turtles has also steadily increased around other Pacific islands over the last two decades.

Oceanographers questioned whether the population growth is due to an increased percent of hatchlings making it to adulthood or if it is solely thanks to the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act was put in place in 1973 to increase the populations of animals that are endangered. This act provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered animals and plants, as well as their habitats. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the green sea turtles are no longer harvested for consumption. The legal consequences for killing or harming an endangered species most likely contribute to the recent increase in population of the green sea turtles.

To better understand how hatchlings fare once they leave the nesting sites, oceanographers visited many nesting sites in coral reefs. They traveled slowly, observing the ages and traits of turtles, such as if they were curious or shy.

However, the oceanographers still have more studies to conduct to determine if more hatchlings are making it to adulthood.

Researchers have also started attaching satellite trackers to recently hatched turtles to learn more about their swimming patterns and how they fare after leaving the nest.

The study must be continued properly to assess the ratios of hatchlings making it to adulthood.

However, the researchers did discover that the young turtles actively swim at least some of the time. Prior to this study, it was believed that the young turtles were passive ocean drifters.

These new insights into turtle behavior and survival may aid conservationists working to ensure a brighter future for green sea turtles.