Quarantine has been extremely difficult on individuals and communities around the globe – especially for the tourism industry. But there have also been benefits for our most endangered marine life.
With beaches deserted during the coronavirus restrictions, sea turtles have an easier time getting to the beaches to nest; and the babies have less obstacles to overcome on the way to the ocean. Researchers have already seen an increase in sea turtle nests compared to last year. The nesting period for sea turtles extends through October, so it is still early to see what effect reopening beaches will have on the population overall.
Few are thriving in quarantine quite like the sea turtles – from an increase in nests on Florida’s beaches to an estimated 60 million eggs laid in eastern India. Last year, the turtles in India avoided landing on the Rushikulya beach because of all the human activity. Similarly, leatherback turtles are nesting on one of Thailand’s most popular Islands, Phuket, for the first time in five years, according to Reuters. With less people and harmful waste on the beaches, turtles are finally safe to lay their eggs. Another factor contributing to the turtles’ safety is less boat traffic. Boat strikes are one of the leading causes of sea turtle stranding and death in the United States.
An estimated 64,000 green turtles have been spotted coming ashore in North Queensland to lay their eggs. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is tracking the turtle migration with drone footage – and seeing the largest turtle numbers since they began their Raine Island Recovery Project. “Raine Island is the world’s largest green turtle meeting site and that’s why we’re working with our Raine Island Recovery Project partners to protect and restore the island’s critical habitat,” says Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden.
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Scuba diving with sea turtles will always be one of our favorite underwater activities, and we’re in awe of the amazing videos and data researchers are releasing about sea turtles in quarantine. As we open our communities back up, we encourage everyone to create space for the sea turtles to lay their eggs in peace. Together, we can help continue the positive trend. Plus, who doesn’t want to see more sea turtles swimming our oceans in the near future!?
It is important to note that some experts do worry about the increased risk of poaching with empty beaches – especially in communities that have been hit the hardest by having businesses shut down due to coronavirus. We hope that the turtles remain safe for their full nesting period.