ESC Blog Post

Sea Turtles Need Their Shells (+ Giveaway)

From guest blogger, Brad Nahill, Campaign Director for Too Rare To Wear and Co-Founder and President of SEE Turtles

Tortoiseshell conjures up many images in the mind; perhaps a multi-colored cat or the pattern in a pair of eyeglass frames. The pattern is familiar – a mixture of brown, amber, orange, and yellow – but the origin might not be. Tortoiseshell is a bit of a misnomer, they are not from the shell of a tortoise at all. The shell is actually of the hawksbill sea turtle and the products, once common around the world, can still be frequently found in tropical places near the coral reefs that these turtles inhabit.

Tortoiseshell, Past and Present

Tortoiseshell was plastic before plastic was invented. Malleable and beautiful, the shells have been used for thousands of years to make jewelry, combs, fine gifts, and many other items. Japan was the leading country for these products; a study found that more than 2 million shells were exported from around the world to Japan over a 50 year period. Now protected under international treaties, the legal trade of these shells has ended, but the illegal trade continues. SEE Turtles has recently launched the Too Rare To Wear campaign to help end the demand for turtleshell products.

Hawksbills, Too Rare to Wear

Hawksbills are an extremely important animal to have around. They help coral reefs thrive by eating sea sponges that compete with coral for space. Their eggs also help provide nutrients for beach vegetation. And seeing a hawksbill swimming through a reef is a big draw for divers and snorkelers, helping coastal communities earn billions per year in tourism revenue.

Unfortunately, due to the trade in their shells as well as to threats like poaching of their eggs, coastal development, plastic pollution, and global warming, this species is now critically endangered with only an estimated 15,000 adult females around the world.

Staggering Stats

Sea turtle shell bracelets for sale in Mirador Catarina, Nicaragua, ©Hal Brindley

According to our recent report Endangered Souvenirs, more than 200 stores and vendors in eight countries around Latin America and the Caribbean were found selling these products. More than 10,000 pieces of turtleshell was found for sale with the largest amounts being sold in Nicaragua, Colombia (Cartagena), Costa Rica, Cuba, and Honduras.

Travelers are the biggest consumers of these items, though many don’t realize they are illegally purchasing a product from an endangered species which can result in large fines if brought back to their home country.

What You Can Do to Help

Travelers can help stop the sale of these products by avoiding them while souvenir shopping and telling the shop owners that they won’t buy from anyone selling these products. Another way to help is to share Too Rare To Wear materials on social media.

Thanks for reading and caring! Share a sea turtle fact below for a chance to win this #WorldOceansDay Sweet On Sea Turtles Bundle!  Then head over to Too Rare To Wear for a chance to score great turtle swag when you sign their Pledge to Avoid Turtleshell.

This bundle includes a signed copy of Blue Mind (a great summer read!), reusable Billion Baby Turtles H2O bottle, sea turtle bracelet, six Endangered Species Chocolate bars + a set of NEW Bark and Bites, other other fun turtle-centric swag.

Sweet On Sea Turtles Bundle winner selected June 12, 2017 | U.S. shipping addresses only.

 

51 Responses

  1. Ilene

    Hawksbills aid in the successful maintenance and health of coral reefs by eating sea sponges that compete with the coral for space.

  2. Juanita

    Hawksbills are an extremely important animal to have around. They help coral reefs thrive by eating sea sponges that compete with coral for space.

  3. Audrey Stewart

    They spend their entire lives at sea, except when adult females come ashore to lay eggs several times per season every 2 to 5 years.

  4. Jeff

    It’s an amazing sight, if you ever get the opportunity, to watch the baby turtles make their way to the ocean once they have hatched.

  5. Sarah

    “Hawksbills are an extremely important animal to have around. They help coral reefs thrive by eating sea sponges that compete with coral for space. Their eggs also help provide nutrients for beach vegetation.”

  6. Dianna

    Hawksbill Sea Turtles are unique in that they crawl with an uneven, alternating gait, leading to their beach tracks being asymmetrical!
    When I go to Florida in July, I know they’re big on using animals as souvenirs down there so I will definitely do my part to spread the word!

    1. Congratulations, Dianna. You are the winner of our #WorldOceansDay bundle! We’ll be reaching out via email to get your information so we can send this assortment of ocean-loving goodies to you.

      UPDATE July 12, 2017: So sorry that we did not hear back from you by the deadline, Dianna. We’ll pull another name out of “hat.” Thank you for participating in our World Sea Turtles Day celebration.

  7. Snorkelling with sea turtles is one of my most cherished travel memories, as well as joining a night tour in Australia to watch a mama turtle laid her eggs. Such a precious experience. Only 0.1% – 1% of eggs laid hatch and survive to sexual maturity. A shockingly low number.

  8. Howell

    Sea turtles are important to the beach/dune ecosystem because their unhatched eggs provide nutrients to dune vegetation which helps stabilize beaches and protect them from erosion.

  9. Chrstina Radcliff

    Hawksbills help with coral reefs.
    My husband and I got to help with a sea turtle nest years ago in Gulf Shores, AL very neat experience!

  10. Tim

    Sea turtles can stay underwater for 5 hours, and do this by slowing their heartbeat to as little as one beat every nine minutes.

  11. To break open their shells, sea turtle hatchlings use a temporary, sharp egg-tooth, called a “caruncle” – an extension of the upper jaw that falls off soon after birth.

  12. Gracie

    This entire article is loaded with facts that I did not know about, and I’m guessing other people. Wow. The amount of ‘tortoise shell’ exported to Japan is staggering. Thank you for this great & informative read! #worldoceansday

  13. Shasta

    Hawksbills are an extremely important animal to have around. They help coral reefs thrive by eating sea sponges that compete with coral for space. Their eggs also help provide nutrients for beach vegetation. And seeing a hawksbill swimming through a reef is a big draw for divers and snorkelers, helping coastal communities earn billions per year in tourism revenue.

    Unfortunately, due to the trade in their shells as well as to threats like poaching of their eggs, coastal development, plastic pollution, and global warming, this species is now critically endangered with only an estimated 15,000 adult females around the world.

  14. Colleen

    All species of sea turtles are endangered, which is one of the reasons why conservation is so important for these animals!

  15. Terri Hartley

    Hawksbill species is now critically endangered with only an estimated 15,000 adult females around the world.ill

  16. Lauren Gray

    The temperatures of the sand where the turtles nest determine the sex of the turtle: below 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30ºC) is predominately male; above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30ºC) is predominately female. #WorldOceansDay

  17. Richard Kiefner

    Sometimes Sea turtles cry, but not because they’re sad. Sea turtles have glands that help to empty excess salt from their eyes, making it appear as though they’re crying. #WorldOceansDay

  18. M.M.

    The first threat a sea turtle must overcome after hatching is avoiding predatory crabs while making a daring escape down the beach and into the ocean. Sadly, not all of them make it.

  19. Anna Gump

    Dinosaurs are old, and became extinct just 65 million years ago – but Sea Turtles are even older, with the oldest fossils dating back about 150 million years. #WorldOceansDay

  20. Frances Heath

    Six out of the seven species of sea turtles are in danger of extinction, and there is not enough data about the other to assess its conservation status, so it is unknown whether it maintains a stable population or is on the verge of extinction too.

  21. Jenny Schumacher

    Most sea turtles undergo long migrations, some as far as 1400 miles, between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they nest.

  22. Julie R.

    A female sea turtle sheds tears while laying her nest. The tears are released by a gland near the eye to keep the eyes moist when females are on land.

  23. Ancilla Jagdeo

    Sea turtles are very old organisms. They live on the Earth more than 220 million years. #WorldOceansDay

  24. Wehaf

    Nobody knows exactly how long sea turtles can live, but most estimates of their lifespan put it around 80 years.

  25. Yasmeen

    Leather back sea turtles can grow up to 8 feet in length, from the tip of the tail for snout. Which makes them the largest known species of See turtles.

  26. Yasmeen

    Leather back sea turtles are at risk because they consume jellyfish. No, the jelly do not harm them directly but some Leather back sea turtles mistake them, jelly fish for plastic bags.

  27. Yasmeen

    Temperatures determine the gender. The males result from cooler temperatures where as females are the out from warmer rays.

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