U.S. activists have worked tirelessly to ensure that the endangered sea turtles have places to live, eat and breed, and now there’s good news – all of that effort has indeed helped the turtles. A new study shows that green sea turtles are using and thriving in ocean habitats that have been specifically protected for their use.
Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey attached satellite tags to sea turtles while they nested in Dry Tortugas National Park in order to monitor their activity in the ocean. By mapping their subsequent locations, the experts were able to confirm that the green turtles were spending significant amounts of time in preserved areas.
Since sea turtles migrate in the open ocean, there has always been concern over whether the turtles even utilize the protected areas environmental groups have fought to maintain. Considering the amount of time and resources devoted to these projects, it is important to know that the sea turtles are actually benefiting from these preserved areas. The new study finally confirms that the efforts of wildlife groups have not been in vain.
“We are thrilled to find that these turtles used some areas already under ‘protected’ status,” said Kristen Hart, lead researcher. “Given that worldwide declines in seagrass – one of the most important habitats they rely on for food – has already been documented, this type of data is critical.”
In addition to protected sea grass areas, the monitoring devices show that sea turtles also spend time around eroding coral reefs. This knowledge will help organizations to know which types of areas to protect on behalf of the green sea turtle in the future.
Some of these areas earned their protected status in court. In 2011, the National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation fought against new development in areas that sea turtles frequent. As a result, an environmental assessment must be performed before permitting a business starts construction on the Florida coast.
It’s not only the ocean habitats that have been crucial to the sea turtle’s survival. Two years ago, research also demonstrated that protecting endangered sea turtles’ nesting areas was also responsible for population growth.
With 90 percent of the country’s sea turtle population residing around Florida, the efforts to protect these turtles will be concentrated in this region. Hopefully, with the positive findings from this latest study, additional areas will be protected to bring back green sea turtles from their endangered status.