Jul 19, 2019 | Updated: 09:53 AM EDT

Endangered Green Sea Turtles Increased in Number According to 13-Year Survey

May 03, 2019 10:14 AM EDT


Green Sea Turtle / Chelonia mydas

(Photo : Christian Gloor)
Green Sea Turtle / Chelonia mydas

With the current condition of the Earth being affected by climate change, the reality that the bad news of having some species driven to extinction is somewhat inevitable.

This is why the news that endangered green sea turtles could be coming back to the US Pacific is considered a cause for celebration, especially for conservationists.

A recent survey shows that the population of green sea turtles living in and around Hawaii and the American Pacific Island territories started to increase in number.

Scuba diving researchers circumnavigated 53 Island from 2002 to 2015. This is the first comprehensive survey in the region concerning the ocean habitats of the turtles. The divers collected data around atolls and coral reefs.

Around 3400 sea turtles were counted by the divers over the span of 13 years. 90.1% out of the total were green sea turtles.

The divers have observed that the green sea turtles spotted around Hawaii increase in number by 8% every year. Meanwhile, around American Samoa and the Mariana Islands, there is an increase of 4% average every year for the turtle population.

Rusty Brainard, an oceanographer based in Honolulu who supervised the coral reef Ecosystem Program for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expressed an enthusiastic appreciation of the phenomenon.

The Endangered Species Act in the United States protects the green sea turtles, or Chelonia mydas, and the hawksbill turtles, or Eretmochelys imbricata. While the former is considered "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the latter currently has a status of "critically endangered."

Ecologist Sarah Becker, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, explained that during their survey there were not enough hawksbills to collect data from so that they can analyze the animal's population trends over time. Becker co-authored the paper with Brainard and Kyle Van Houtan, an aquarium colleague and conservation ecologist.

According to their survey, the number of green sea turtles nesting in Hawaii and some parts of the Pacific region has slowly but steadily increased over the last 20 years. Still, once the hatchlings leave their sandy cradles and venture out into the ocean, there is no certain way for the scientists to tell how these young turtles would fare.

During their 13-year survey, the researchers were attached by a line to a slow-moving boat that dragged them. This method gave them a chance to track turtles and other reef-dwelling organisms.

Brainard, who has participated in the survey first hand, describes the experience as a spectacular way to see the reef system, even if it only lasted one hour at a time. The scientist also expresses relieve that the animals are covered in the Endangered Species Act ensuring that species are no longer harassed or harvested for consumption.

The results of the new study are said to be possibly the only information that scientist have about the in-ocean populations of turtles.

The survey ended in 2017 due to lack of funding. Data gathered were then analyzed by the team of scientists. The results of their study have recently been published in "PLOS One", a science journal.

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