1Frame4Nature | Baby Giants in the Deep Blue

What YOU Can Do:

  • Eat sustainable seafood. Look for special terms like “line caught”, “diver caught”, “sustainably caught” or “sustainably harvested.
  • Stop using straws. About 500 million disposable straws are used each day in USA and plastic straws aren’t accepted for recycling. Straws are the number top 10 plastic trash found in the oceans.
  • Reduce or stop the usage of plastic bags, plastic cutlery, and plastic cups.

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Sherrie Floyd, Supervisor of Giant Ocean Tank at New England Aquarium shows Myrtle the 90 years old endangered, non-releasable green sea turtle her breakfast salad. Divers of the Giant Ocean Tank train her to eat by herself and not to be fed by human. October 24, 2015, Boston, MA, Esther Horvath / iLCP

iLCP Fellow Esther Horvath‘s 1Frame4Nature: Baby Giants in the Deep Blue

Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtles are endangered or critically endangered. The Kemp’s Ridley, leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles are listed as ‘critically endangered’—meaning the species faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. Their existence is threatened due to different human activities, such as plastic pollution, fishing, oil spills, boat accidents and poachers. Sea turtles are often injured, rendering them non-releasable because of their injuries. They then spend the rest of their lives in a rehabilitation center, aquarium or zoo.

During the rehabilitation some of the sea turtles don’t have an appetite and therefore, must be hand-fed. Kemp’s Ridley #77 had a stomach operation because of his injuries. February 28, 2014, Quincy, MA, Esther Horvath

Started in 2014, my long-term documentary project “Baby Giants” focuses on the conservation work of the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley and other endangered sea turtles.  Help is already underway to bring these sea turtle populations back from the brink, and I get to share this story of hope and invite you to join the efforts for sea turtles.

“In 1985, critically engendered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were almost extinct.  We are lucky that we could turn it around in 1985, and now together, all of us can save this species from extinction” – Donna J. Shaver Ph.D. Chief, Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, National Park Service, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, USA.

Donna J.Shaver, Ph.D. , Chief, Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, National Park Service releases 106 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchings in Padre Island National Seashore. Dr. Shaver is the head of the sea turtle nesting program in Texas. June 17, 2016, Padre Island, TX, Esther Horvath / iLCP

I work with governmental and non-profit organizations, scientists and volunteers all across the United States documenting the sea turtles‘ cold stranding, rehabilitation, release back into the ocean, nesting and the home of the non-releasable sea turtles.  Cold stranding happens when sea turtles get lost in 50 degrees Fahrenheit water,  causing them to become hypothermic and unable to function. At that time, they start to float on the surface, unable to dive down to feed. In the event of high winds, coupled with extreme tides, these vulnerable animals are often pushed closer to shore, leaving them stranded when the tide falls, but not out of reach of rescue.

Rescued, endangered loggerhead named after an American state park in Virginia, “Hungry Mother” gets pulled out for her every other day treatment at Marine Animal Care Center at the Virginia Aquarium. Hungry Mother is a cold-stranded sea turtle that washed ashore injured in North Carolina. Virginia beach, VA, 02.26.2016, Esther Horvath / iLCP

Kemp’s Ridley turtles only nest along the east coasts of Mexico and Texas.  In 1978, the U.S. joined Mexico in efforts to try to save the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles from extinction and help recover the population. Every year, sea turtle eggs (mainly Kemp’s Ridley) are collected and incubated at the facility of National Park Service, Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery on Padre Island. After about 55 days the hatchlings break through their egg shell and are then released back into the ocean.

Tony Amos, leader of Animal Rehabilitation Keep of Port Aransas and Andrew Orgill found a reported, endangered green sea turtle between the stones on the jetty at the beach of Port Aransas. The sea turtle was hit by a boat propeller. January 23, 2014, Port Aransas, TX, Esther Horvath / iLCP

Cape Cod, MA, has the world’s largest annual sea turtle stranding. In this area, which is also called the ‘Deadly Bucket’, 85% of the stranded sea turtles are the most critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley turtles. As the water temperature in the fall drops, sea turtles, especially those with injuries, appear to have difficulty leaving Cape Cod’s hook-shaped landmass. Every year between October and January staff and volunteers of the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary walk Cape Cod beaches twice a day after the high tide rescuing cold stranded sea turtles. In 2014, more than 1,200 sea turtles were stranded along the shores of Cape Cod, exceeding all historical records.

Cold stranded, critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle has been found and marked for pick up by a volunteer of Marr Audubon Wellfleet Wildlife Sanctuary in Beach Point, Truro, MA, Cape Cod. November 28, 2015, Truro, MA, Esther Horvath

Sanctuary staff transport stranded sea turtles to the Marine Animal Rescue Team at the New England Aquarium, where they specialize in rehabilitating stranded sea turtles. The team provides rewarming, rehabilitation and subsequent release back into the ocean.

Dr. Julie Cavin from Marine Animal Rescue Team of New Endland Aquarium is checking a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle while it is in the cat scan. 03.01.2014, Quincy, MA, Esther Horvath / iLCP

Plastic pollution is also a major driver of sea turtle losses. About 8 million tons of plastic trash ends up in the ocean every year, and hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, other marine animals and more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution. We can make a difference by refusing to purchase plastic products and helping with ocean clean-up initiatives.

Critically endangerd Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle after 8 month rehabilitation at Marine Animal Rescue Team facility returns back to the ocean. 07.31.2014, Assateague Island, MD, Esther Horvath / iLCP

I invite you to join the the main goal of conservation organisations to protect sea turtles, which have lived on this planet for more than 150 million years in order to help insure their survival for generations to come.

Here are some more ways to get involved:

  • Stop releasing balloons, especially on the beaches. Floating balloons, plastic bags and other garbage can look like jelly fish and are deadly for sea turtles or other marine animals, because they can choke or starve because their digestive systems get blocked when they eat them.
  • Never leave anything on the beach behind, collect all your trash and place it in trash containers.
  • Water that goes down your drain can eventually end up in the ocean. You can help keep the ocean and other waterways healthy by choosing your cleaning products carefully.


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