The plight of sea turtles and their potentially bleak future is hardly any secret.
For millions of years, these beloved animals have been a vital part of ocean ecosystems. But today, they’re on the brink of extinction, according to Oceana, the world’s largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation.
Every year, for instance, more than 50,000 sea turtles are killed by shrimp trawling nets in the Southeastern waters of the United States as non-targeted catch. Still, other threats include ingestion of or entanglement in marine debris, oil pollution, habitat loss, poaching, vessel strikes and climate change.
As a result of all of these hazards, each of the six sea turtle species found in United States waters is listed as either endangered or threatened, and they may go extinct in the foreseeable future, according to Oceana.
May 23 will mark the 17th annual World Turtle Day, an event and observance established by American Tortoise Rescue, a non-profit organization created to protect all species of tortoise and turtles.
The goal of the day is to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.
As a traveler, there are numerous things you can do to help turtles. As the site SeeTurtles.org points out:
—Don’t buy souvenirs or other items made from critically endangered hawksbill shell. Learn how to recognize turtle shell and other similar looking materials. (SeeTurtles.org provides a guide for doing this.) When traveling, ask vendors what souvenirs are made of and when in doubt, don’t purchase items in question.
—Reduce your carbon footprint. Climate change affects the health of coral reefs, which are vital to the hawksbill’ survival. A warming planet also skews sex ratios in baby turtles, changes the abundance and distribution of prey, increases erosion of nesting beaches and more.
—Choose responsibly caught seafood. Sea turtles are vulnerable to commercial fishing methods like trawling, longlines and drift gillnets, becoming unwanted catch (also known as “bycatch”) that is discarded like trash. To help make turtle friendly seafood choices check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which is also available as a handy app for your phone.
—Say no to plastics. Sea turtles and other ocean life mistake plastic as food and ingest it. It’s estimated that more than 100 million marine animals die each year as a result of eating or getting entangled in plastic. Avoid using disposable plastic bags and bottles and “skip the straw.” Check out some easy ways to reduce your use of plastics here.
—Leave no trace. This means practicing good housekeeping when visiting a beach where turtles nest. Remove your trash (and trash left by others) and any obstacles that may become hazards for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings like beach furniture, holes and sandcastles. Turtles need clean and clear beaches (and oceans!) to increase their chances of survival.
Yet another way for travelers to recognize World Turtle Day is to stay at a hotel that supports their protection. Here are some notable choices:
Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa
Jupiter is a haven for sea turtles, and Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa is the area’s only hotel nestled right along the oceanfront.
Those heading to the Sunshine State this summer can easily spot sea turtle hatchlings at night on the hotel’s beach during nesting season, which runs from May through October.
Guests booking the resort’s ‘Stay & Save the Sea Turtles’ package will have the opportunity to adopt a sea turtle in their name, as a portion of proceeds from their visit will be donated to the local Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
The package also includes a daily $50 credit that can be used toward any of the resort’s activities, as well as a plush “Loggy the Loggerhead” stuffed animal to take home as a souvenir.
Guests can check out sea turtles in their natural habitat while exploring the local area via off-site activities such as kayaking, paddle-boarding, boating and more.
For more information or to book the package, guests can visit www.jupiterbeachresort.com with promo code TURTLE. Guests must book a minimum of three nights to have proceeds donated to the Loggerhead center.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
To the Huichol people native to the Sierra Madre Mountain range, the spiritual symbol of the tortuga (turtle) is an important one, as the creatures are touted as the helpers of the rain goddesses.
From June to December, guests staying at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa can share in paying this special respect to Mother Nature and this tradition of the local culture by playing a role in the resort’s turtle protection program.
In addition to having the opportunity to release newly hatched turtles into the ocean, nature-lovers can join the resident biologist at this Puerto Vallarta property for a nighttime stroll along the beach to monitor the nesting turtles.
Guests meet at the turtle nursery at 10:30 pm where the biologist will provide information about the conservation project and instructions for patrolling the beach.
This activity is offered every day during turtle season. For more information, visit www.puertovallartamarriott.com.
Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater Beach, Florida
Sandpearl Resort is an eco-friendly property situated along a 700-foot stretch of the best-ranked beach in the nation.
The resort is a close partner with Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is a local rescue and rehabilitation center for marine animals such as dolphins, turtles and otters which offers guests the opportunity to participate in a variety of educational activities and excursions.
Families can even get the chance to see loggerhead sea turtles hatch during annual sea turtle nesting season from May to October and rehabilitated sea turtles get released back to their ocean home, as both happen right on Sandpearl’s beach. For more information, visit https://www.sandpearl.com/.
Turtle Beach Resort, Barbados
The easternmost Caribbean island of Barbados is home to more turtles than any other island in the region. From native leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles to the colorful sponges and flying fish, Barbados’ oceans are teeming with lively marine life.
Situated on a 1,500 foot-stretch of pearly white coastline is Turtle Beach Resort, a Green Globe-certified, family-friendly all-inclusive property.
In collaboration with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, the resort’s expert team of “Turtle Pioneers” as they’re affectionately known, will teach guests about marine conservation and how to reduce their carbon footprint.
During the summer months, guests are likely to spot hundreds of sea turtle hatchlings and can help the Turtle Pioneers in leading the baby turtles by flashlight back to the ocean after they’ve hatched. Finally, eco-conscious travelers can partake in periodic beach cleanups to keep Barbados’ shores tidy and the oceans free of debris.
JW Marriott Cancun and Marriott Cancun Resort, Mexico
Not only does Cancun offer easy access to the Yucatan’s most amazing sights—from the ruins of Chichen Itza to the cenotes of Tulum—but its prime location makes it one of the most favorable spots in Mexico for sea turtle nesting.
Every year thousands of white loggerhead sea turtles make their way to Cancun’s long stretch of powdery white sands looking for a piece of beachfront real estate to lay their eggs.
Since 2013, the JW Marriott Cancun and Marriott Cancun Resort have been committed to protecting the endangered species.
Last year, for example, the properties looked after 42 nests and more than 8,000 eggs throughout the entire incubation process until the baby sea turtles were born. During turtle season, guests are invited to witness and partake in the special, one-of-a-kind experience. In fact, in 2018, guests watched on as more than 5,500 hatchlings were born.
Not only did they leave Cancun with a great tan, but they became the newest eco-pioneers, spreading the hotels’ message about the importance of marine and environmental conservation.
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