Sea turtles have roamed our oceans for more than 150 million years! Their lives are a long journey, and only few survive…
It’s estimated that only 1 in 1000 sea turtles will live to reach adulthood and unfortunately, this is mostly due to threats created by humans.
Because we love turtles and would like your help to protect them, let’s take a Divine Depth dive into the life and adventures of a sea turtle!
Though it’s difficult to document the actual age of any species of sea turtle, we do know that they can live for a long time. Some scientists believe they can live up to 100 years old! Radical dude!
However, no matter the age they live to, they all start off the same way….
In the Beginning
A small egg buried under the dark sand.
During nesting season, female sea turtles come ashore at night or in the early morning and dramatically dig a hole above the high-tide line in the sand. Using their front flippers, it’s quite the sight and involves a lot of flying sand. Once the hole is dug, the Mama sea turtle lays 50 – 200 soft-shelled eggs and after covering the nest with sand, returns to the sea never to meet her babies.
She journeys back to her feeding area to replenish her energy stores in preparation for her next breeding season, which will take place in two to three years.
During a nesting season, which can last one to two months, a female egg will lay between two and seven clutches (a group of eggs laid during one egg-laying event) every 10 to 15 days.
About 60 days after the eggs are laid, the wee baby sea turtles, or hatchlings, break out of their shells and as a team, dig themselves out of the nest. Only 2 inches long and 1.5 lbs, they then begin a frantic (frantic to them, but adorable to us) crawl to the ocean, trying not to become a bite sized snack for predators such as birds, dogs, crabs and humans.
The Lost Years
As soon as the hatchlings enter the water, they swim… and just keep swimming… for days… nearly non-stop to escape the shore, fueled only by their leftover egg yolk. Once in the open ocean, they are caught in ocean currents and will live in seaweed. It’s in the open ocean where young turtles spend several years, up to a decade, drifting with the currents. These are known as the “lost years” and little is known about this phase of their lives.
After leaving the shore roughly the size of the bowl of a spoon, sea turtles return to coastal waters when they are about the size of a dinner plate (juveniles) and will stay in their chosen feeding areas for the rest of their lives, except for when they migrate for the breeding season. Young turtles wait to return to coastal areas until they are larger because that’s where they will find more predators.
It may take them another 30 years before they reach maturity.
Baby Making Time
Upon reaching maturity, adult turtles migrate to breeding grounds which can be hundreds to thousands of kilometers away!!
After mating, the males return to their feeding grounds and will never return to shore in their lifetime, whereas females, before heading back to the feeding grounds, return to the beach on which they were born to lay their eggs and so life goes.
Sadly, nearly all species of sea turtles are classified as Endangered, with 2 of the 7 species classified as Critically Endangered, according to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Primarily, this is a result of human activities over the last 200 years. From being hunted for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, to bycatch, habitat destruction through irresponsible coastal development, plastic pollution and climate change, these beautiful creatures are now threatened with extinction.
This is why supporting organizations that focus on sea turtle conservation and operate hatcheries are so valuable! By protecting the turtles in their early life stages, we can give them a better chance of survival!
We partner with ARCAS’s Parque Hawaii, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre based on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. They specialize in sea turtle conservation, operate three turtle hatcheries and are involved in creating sustainable livelihoods for ex-poachers in their area.
With Our Giving Program, we hope to help support ARCAS and other marine non-profit organizations to enable future generations to witness the ocean and its creatures for what it what they are… Divine.
And lastly, as always, dive safe and have fun!
Advice from the Ocean:
Be shore of yourself. Come out of your shell.
Take time to relax and coast. Avoid pier pressure.
Sea life’s beauty. Don’t get tide down.