Covering hundreds of miles, the Coral Triangle is a reef located in the western Pacific Ocean. This vast area is home to 600 different varieties of coral as well as six marine species of turtles, all of which are considered endangered. Hundreds of millions of people live on the islands encompassed in the Coral Triangle (the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Solomon islands), and they rely on the natural habitats for food and resources. Everything in this region depends on the health of the reefs to survive and thrive. Almost 40% of the world’s reef fish species can be found in the Coral Triangle, alongside marine mammals, making this one of the most diverse and abundant reefs on Earth. However, excessive fishing and climate changes are creating catastrophic problems for the region. Harmful fishing techniques, including the use of explosives, are poisoning the waters while the temperatures and sea level rise due to global warming. Marine life had dropped dramatically and many of the species face endangerment or extinction if a solution is not enacted.
Species of Turtles
Six of the seven species of marine turtles are considered vulnerable to critically endangered and all six can be found in the Coral Triangle. Both the Leatherback Turtles (20,000-30,000 nesting females in the wild) and the Olive Ridley Turtles (about 800,00 nesting females in the wild) are considered vulnerable, meaning that while it is not as pressing, they are still in danger of becoming extinct if numbers continue to fall in the wild. Classified as endangered are the Loggerhead Turtles (about 60,000 nesting females in the wild) and the Green Turtles (about 85,000-90,000 nesting females in the wild). While these numbers may seem plentiful, it is estimated that 100,000 are killed annually by humans for meat, meaning that the population decreases drastically from year to year. The most worrisome are the critically endangered, the Kemp’s Ridley Turtles (1,000-10,000 nesting females in the wild) and the Hawksbill Turtles (20,000-23,000 nesting females in the wild). The Kemp’s Ridley is the most endangered of the species, as more than 100,000 populated the oceans in the 1940’s and conservation efforts have not lead to a rapid repopulation.
Marine turtles succumb to over-fishing and the effects of harmful fishing practices such as explosive and cyanide fishing. Turtle populations, among hundreds of other marine species, have declined at such a rapid rate that it is unlikely the numbers will be able to sustain life in the future. Turtles frequently get accidentally snared in fishing nets by tuna-catchers. Pollution from trash and chemicals can severely injure and kill all forms of marine life. Chemicals wreak havoc on their immune systems and cause illnesses such as tumors to form. Sea turtles are hunted for their meat and their nests are picked clean of eggs by humans. The shores where sea turtles nest and the seafloor they call home have been reconstructed by human construction. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles have died in the last century and only about half live to adult hood in the wild.
How to Help
All hope is not lost, though. Many conservation teams have worked with legal entities to protect endangered turtles from fishing. Their nesting beaches are rapidly becoming protected land and fishing practices that accidently catch sea turtles are being improved. Volunteers have cleaned up beaches and shorelines, removing toxic and harmful trash from the habitats. Climate change is being monitored and predicted, giving scientists a chance to prepare and adapt habitats. There are many organizations committed to rebuilding the Coral Triangle and rebuilding the population of sea turtles to thriving numbers, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI-CCF), and See Turtles. For more information on conservation or to find out how you can help, please visit their websites in the sources section below. With extreme effort and dedication, the sea turtle populations may once again raise and fill the Coral Triangle with these graceful creatures.