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Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies
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Threats to Sea Turtles

Sea turtle nesting numbers have been decreasing over recent years, and there are many factors that affect sea turtle survival. Natural threats include predators such as fox, dogs and raccoons on the eggs; ghost crabs and seagulls and other birds on hatchlings; and many types of fish on hatchlings and subadults. Several human threats on sea turtles include: poaching and eating eggs; killing subadults and adults for their meat; and turtle products such as jewelry.

Additional problems found along the South Carolina coast and many other areas include: 

Fishing Bycatch

Many commercial fisheries, including shrimping boats, accidentally capture sea turtles in their nets thus drowning these air breathing reptiles. Fishing vessels are required to have turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their nets to allow captured sea turtles to escape.

Marine Debris

Litter on the land and beach, as well as pollution from boaters, frequently ends up in the oceans. Sea turtles often mistake marine debris as food, such as plastic bags for jellyfish, and ingest these man-made materials causing illness and possibly death. Entanglement in fishing line is another cause for sea turtle death.

Artificial Lighting

Upon hatching, hatchlings move from their darkest surroundings in search of the ocean waters. Lights at beachfront properties can lead the hatchlings away from the sea and into many dangerous situations such as roads, parking lots, and swimming pools.

The Waties Island nest monitoring group is also a member of the SC DNR permitted Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN). Data is collected and reported on sea turtles that wash into shore at the Island. Some of these may be injured or sick and will receive proper medical attention from SC DNR staff and SC Sea Turtle Hospital. Others are found dead for many of the above reasons. This website provides information on North and South Carolina strandings: http://www.seaturtle.org/strand/.

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