Sea turtles have inhabited our Earth for over 100 million years, serving an important role in our marine ecosystems. Within the last 200 years, however, the species population has declined rapidly.
To understand what this means for us, imagine driving your car without a muffler to clean the toxic fumes before they're emitted into the atmosphere. After a while, your car would stop functioning, and its environmental impact would be far greater. Well, in this analogy, sea turtles are the mufflers. Besides being adorable, these critters play an important role in our ocean ecosystems by providing habitat for others, helping balance the food chain, and facilitating nutrient cycling.
While natural predators and disease play a role in this shift, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, some of the biggest threats to turtles are hunting and poaching, pollution, and climate change. Looks like humans are behind the suffering of yet another keystone species. But, before we start assigning blame, pointing fingers, and selling off our cars for the latest hybrid (although that’s not a bad idea), there are definitely ways to help out this beloved species—and many other sea critters—in our daily routines.
On a recent visit to Turtle Island in Fiji, I saw some incredible ways to do just that. Turtles are strongly linked to local culture in Fiji, and the island has emerged as a nesting ground for many different species of the sacred animal. It also seeks to educate visitors from around the world on conservation issues with a luxe eco-hotel on-site.
Here are a few of the island's initiatives that inspired me to take action and create positive change: