4. See a cool animal in the wild.
I had a very heartwarming experience happen to me over the summer while on vacation with my family. It’s definitely going on my top ten best experiences. It tugged at my heartstrings more than I ever imagined it could. I have always been a lover of animals even to the point that I made the life long decision at age 7 to never consume the flesh of an animal. I had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a sea turtle but not in a way I would have ever imagined. Before I dive into my personal experience I want to talk with you about important facts regarding sea turtles.
Ancient, beautiful and threatened sea turtles have lived on this earth for more than 100 million years. There are so many mysteries about these lovely creatures but one thing we know for sure is the fact that six of seven species of sea turtles are threatened with extinction due to human impacts.
The seven species can be divided into two main subgroups. One of the subgroups houses the single species, the leatherbacks while the other subgroup houses the other six species of hard shelled sea turtles.
The Leatherback is the largest of the sea turtles and can reach up to 6 ft and nearly 2,200 lbs. Despite their size the leatherbacks are very vulnerable creatures and are one of the species that are rapidly declining.
Loggerheads which are named for their large heard with jaws powerful enough to crush an adult queen conch. Like most sea turtles Loggerheads are famed for their vast migrations. As a species that may travel thousands of miles across ocean basins, loggerheads are threatened due to worldwide habitat loss and incidental captures by fisherman.
Green sea turtles are one of the endangered species even though is it considered to have one of the most vast and widely dispersed nesting sites of the seven species. It was once highly sought after for it’s body fat- making it a delicacy. Even though it has become illegal to trade them in many parts of the world, green turtles and their eggs continue to be consumed.
There isn’t much information on the Flatback sea turtles, making their species data deficient. It’s the only sea turtles species that that nest solely along the Northern coast of Australia and can be found on the continental shelf between Australia, southern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Olive Ridley sea turtles are also known as arribadas, the Spanish word for ‘arrival’. This is because they come ashore altogether by the hundreds and thousands to nest. They are the most abundant of the sea turtles but are still increasingly threatened by coastal development and trawling. Trawling is net fishing.
The Kemp’s Ridley is one of two critically endangered species in the sea turtle family. Kemp’s is the smallest of the sea turtles and has an extremely restricted range, nesting only along the Caribbean shores of northern Mexico and in Texas, USA. Fifty years ago, the Kemp’s Ridley was near extinction. Fishing nets and coastal development continue to threaten it’s recovery. The recovery progress of this species is slow and a lot needs to be done before it can be considered safe.
Last but certainly not least we have the Hawksbill sea turtle. This is the other critically endangered species. It was named for it’s sharp, pointed beak but has been made famous for it’s beautiful translucent shell which it was often used in tortoiseshell jewelry. International trade of tortoiseshell has since been prohibited but as we all know illegal trafficking still goes on.
During one of our vacations on the North Carolina shore I was sunbathing with my mom while my dad and fiance were fishing off of the pier. During this time I heard my dad yelled over the pier edge and he told me that one of the fisherman caught a sea turtle and the net they’re supposed to use to safely collect it was no longer there and they were bringing it to shore. My heart started pounding for the poor baby. I waited at the end and told some swimmers by the pier what was happening so they could clear a path for it.
I was about knee deep in the water when I heard a man shout at another man who wasn’t far away from me to grab the sea turtle before the waves broke because it was tired and helpless. I looked over to see the poor creature sprawled out on it’s back just floating on top. I was afraid that it was dead. The man was hesitant and I was much closer to it anyway so I pushed through the water to grab it just before the waves broke.
I was happy to note that the sea turtle, although weak, was still alive and well. I carried the sea turtle, which was hooked by a large fishing hook, to shore and waited my next instructions. At this point a crowd started to form around me and I had to kindly tell them to not touch and to be gentle because it was scared. I felt my legs trembling underneath me as I waited for my dad to get a pair of pliers to remove the sea turtles hook which was deep within it’s jaws.
Because of them being endangered, it’s important to call The Marine Animal Response Hotline for guidance and every turtle interaction has to be recorded. They’ll either inform you to let the turtle go (rare) or tell you to keep it in the shade or covered by a wet towel until the local turtle conservation arrives.
I posted my story on Facebook, not expecting viral response but just to share my experience and to inform people of what needs to be done when this happens and shine light on the importance of sea turtle conservation. In the process I got in contact with the owner of Shelly Cove, a clothing brand that is primarily focused on raising awareness and money for the Sea Turtle Conservation.
I am always so stoked to find brands like this. I think it’s so important to dedicate yourself to a cause and show your infinite support for something. I feel like a lot of people feel the same way. People love tee shirts or accessories that shows their dedication to something, their investment to something greater.
But this is more than just a clothing brand that donates a portion of their proceeds to a cause. They’re truly passionate about their mission.
They started up in 2015, not really know much about business but was so passion-driven about creating a brand that was solely focused on saving sea turtles. They’re very open about their core values of passion, doing good and transparency. They not only sell shirts but inspire communities to do good and get out there to make a difference!
The company is directly linked to the Karen Beasley Turtle Hospital and even gives you a chance to directly donate to the organization! Karen Beasley Turtle Hospital is also a rescue and rehabilitation center for turtles. The primary goals there are to rescue, rehabilitate and release! It’s mission is the conservation and rehabilitation of all marine turtle species!
But aside from just that, according to Shelly Cove’s website they have also donated funds to several other causes they are also passionate about such as:
- SEA TURTLE INC. | Donated $15,000 for the sea turtle crisis during Texas snowstorms.
- SCHOLARSHIP | Established the “Karen Schroeder Shelly Cove Marine Biology Scholarship,” in honor of our late co-founder, Karen. Marine Biology students at UNC Wilmington are eligible to win the annual $5,000 scholarship.
- CHATTANOOGA FOOD BANK | We’ve provided over 10,000 meals to Chattanooga Food Bank. We donate our time serving as a team, and our boxes every month which they use for delivering meals.
- NONPROFIT | Over $10,000 donated to various non-profits through flash promotions.
- AWARENESS | Raised awareness on the issue of single-use plastics to millions of people! #skiptheplastic
- CLEAN WATER ACT | Given over 12,000 people clean water for a year.
- CRISIS RELIEF | Donated $30,000 to the Australian Red Cross during the wildfire crisis.
- BREAST CANCER RESEARCH | Donated $2500 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
This is the impact you are making when you invest in a company like Shelly Cove! And on top of that with every purchase you get your own unique tracking number so that you can track your very own sea turtle!
What You Can Do To Help
Aside from investing in companies like Shelly Cove. There are plenty of other things you can do to help save the sea turtles. As you have read one of the most consistent thing among sea turtle endangerment is fishing. Particularly net fishing or trawling, one thing you can do is become a conscious and responsible seafood consumer by asking where and how your seafood was caught. Choose seafood caught in ways that do not harm or kill turtles. Consult sustainable seafood information networks to learn about how and where your seafood is caught.
The other thing what we found to be most consistent is coastal development and the depletion of safe sea turtle habitats. We could help that by keeping nesting beaches dark and safe for sea turtles. Turn off, shield, or redirect lights visible from the beach. Lights disorient hatchling sea turtles and discourage nesting females from coming onto the beach to lay their eggs. Also, be mindful not to disturb nesting turtles, nests, or hatchlings. Attend organized sea turtle watches that know how to safely observe nesting sea turtles.
You can also help by removing recreational beach equipment like chairs, umbrellas, boats at night so sea turtles are not turned away and fill in holes and knock down sandcastles before you leave the beach. They can become obstacles for nesting turtles or emerging hatchlings.
We’ve all been told about plastic usage and the danger that it opposes to sea turtles and marine life so other ways that we can help is by reducing marine debris that may entangle or be accidentally eaten by sea turtles. We can actively do this by participating or hosting coastal clean-ups as well as reduce plastic use to keep our beaches and ocean clean. Also, carrying reusable water bottles and shopping bags. Refrain from releasing balloons because they’re often mistaken by sea turtles as food.
There are plenty more things we can do to help save the sea turtles, these are just a few and most important that I noted! Don’t be afraid to get involved. While at the beach reach out to your local sea turtle conservation network and find ways to get involved!
What is something that you have a passion about? Saving sea turtles? Maybe you’re more interested in the other hundreds of animals at risk of extinction. Let me know in the comments!