Your Vacation Is Killing Sea Turtles

turtleThey?re bucket list experiences ? swimming with sea turtles in the ocean, watching them nest on the beach, or if you?re really lucky, seeing an army of little hatchlings scurry from the sand into the ocean. But most species of sea turtles are endangered.

One of the biggest causes is ? you guessed it ? human activity. And it?s not just about poaching turtles for their eggs, meat, and shells (thought those are also huge problems). Right now we?re in the thick of the nesting season for sea turtles in the western hemisphere (March through October). And in popular tourist locales like Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, without even knowing it, your vacation activities could be harming these amazing creatures. Here are the biggest problem behaviors and what to do about them. (Note: This story contains images of injured and deceased turtles that may be disturbing.)

1. Using plastic at the beach

The problem: Even if you?re careful about throwing your water bottles, straws, and sandwich baggies in trash cans, it?s still very easy for that stuff to end up in water stream, according to David Godfrey, executive director of Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC). Once in the water, ?bags float and looks like a jellyfish, which a number of turtles eat,? explains Godfrey. ?Turtles wash up sick or emaciated or dead and when we examine them we find plastic blocking up the gut track.? Sadly, this also happens to the babies. ?There are these areas in the oceans called convergence zones, where currents come together, and you get long lines of seaweed, where hatchlings live. They float in that seaweed and find food and protection from predators,? says Godfrey. But that seaweed also collects debris, like bits of plastic. The baby turtles can eat or get caught up in it, killing them.?

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