Green sea turtles are considered an endangered species, but are they already making a comeback in U.S. territories? Recent monitoring shows an increase in the species’ population.
Comprehensive Survey Of Turtle Habitats
In a new study, researchers report that green sea turtle populations around Hawaii increased by 8 percent per year, while populations in American Samoa and in the Mariana Islands see an average increase of 4 percent per year.
The data was gathered from 2002 to 2015 wherein scuba diving researchers scoured 53 atolls, coral reefs, and islands in the U.S. Pacific. In that 13-year period, the researchers counted over 3,400 sea turtles, 90.1 percent of which were green sea turtles, while 8.3 percent were hawksbills and 1.6 percent were unidentified.
It was the first comprehensive survey of turtles’ habitats in the region.
Sea Turtle Population
According to researchers, the population of green sea turtles has been improving in the past two decades, but it was not until this survey that they were able to see how the turtle hatchlings fared after they set out to sea.
Unfortunately, while the green sea turtles appear to be making a comeback, the case is not the same for hawksbills, which are considered critically endangered. While both green sea turtles and hawksbills are protected by the Endangered Species Act, the hawksbills appear to still be struggling.
Green Sea Turtles
Green sea turtles can be found in all temperate waters around the world. Typically the stay near the coastlines, around islands, in bays, and protected shores, and they are rarely observed in the open ocean.
They are considered endangered, and are hence protected under the Endangered Species Act. Some of the biggest threats to the species are incidental catches from commercial shrimp trawling, commercial harvest for their eggs, habitat loss, and warming temperatures. Sometimes, the turtles are even caught for their parts to be sold, while small turtles are stuffed and sold as trinkets.
According to researchers, it is possible that the legal protections for the green sea turtles help so that the creatures will not be harassed or harvested.
The study is published in PLOS ONE.