Why Are Sea Turtles Endangered?

Sea turtles are endangered for many reasons including population decline from human activities such as poaching, commercial fishing and illegal trade, along with climate change, pollution and erosion. These ocean creatures are valued for their shells, meat and eggs, which makes over-harvesting one of the leading threats to sea turtles.

Sea turtles live in oceans and coastal areas around the world, including the United States. Like other animals, some species face greater threats than others. The World Wildlife Fund identifies five turtle species of special concern: green, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and hawksbill. However, many other species are listed nationally or internationally as threatened or endangered.

Sea turtles of all ages face threats. Young turtles face risks from warming sands due to global warming. Adult turtles may become entangled in fishing nets at sea, while adults and juveniles may become trapped and killed or injured in coastal marine equipment.

Coastal development threatens turtle nests as humans and turtles compete for space. Artificial lighting, particularly on overdeveloped shorelines, force turtles to nest in less than ideal locations. Garbage and marine debris, particularly floating plastic bags, present choking and poisoning hazards to turtles. Lastly, chemicals and pollutants released during oil spills and other disasters negatively affect turtles and their food supplies.