We’re from the Government and We’re Here to Help Green Sea Turtles
When the temperature drops very quickly like this — turtles, being cold blooded — it makes them very lethargic, and once their temperature drops below a certain temperature, then they end up dying,” said Mike Zewe, development coordinator at the coastal and marine preserve.
The turtle hospital on North Ocean Boulevard had 34 patients as of late Friday, officials said.
Officials at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach also had an influx of “cold-stunned” juvenile green sea turtles. As of late Friday, eight of the reptiles were admitted at the center and 300 were being treated at rehabilitation centers statewide, said Tom Longo, communications manager at Loggerhead.
Green turtles are the largest of all the hard-shelled sea turtles, but have a comparatively small head.
Adult green turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they eat only plants; they are herbivorous, feeding primarily on seagrasses and algae. This diet is thought to give them greenish-colored fat, from which they take their name.
During the nesting season, females nest at approximately two-week intervals. They lay an average of five nests, or “clutches.” In Florida, green turtle nests contain an average of 135 eggs, which will incubate for approximately 2 months before hatching.
Economics focuses on knowledge and incentive problems. No one knows the best way to protect green sea turtles when they hatch, or in in open water. But if a single female can lay five clutches of 135 eggs each, well, that’s a lot of sea turtle eggs. If even half survived the oceans would be thick with green sea turtles in just a few generations. (Ten years of one female laying 600 eggs each summer, with 300 being females and 150 or 50% surviving would leave us with some 7,593,750,000,000,000 turtles bumping into each other across the world’s oceans, and devouring all available “sea grasses and algae.”)
So obviously, most sea turtle eggs don’t make the transition to adults. According to Seaworld.org:
Fishes, dogs, seabirds, raccoons, ghost crabs, and other predators prey on eggs and hatchlings. Most than 90% of hatchlings are eaten by these predators.
So what if some entrepreneur decided to protect green sea turtle eggs from natural (and domestic) predators, and insure a much larger percentage of eggs “Survival of the Sea Turtle: Cayman Turtle Farm Starts Over.”
survived? That was the enterprise developed by Anthony Fisher, a successful U.K. businessman when he founded the Cayman Turtle Farm. Andrew Morris explains the history and the economics in
Since the end of the last ice age 21,000 years ago, our planet has seen ocean levels rise by 120 meters to reach their current levels.
unhappy picture. Anthony Fisher’s original turtle farm expected to restore the endangered green sea turtle by protecting hatchlings and releasing thousands to the wild. But the firm also expected to raise and harvest turtles for turtle soup exports to the United States.
Green sea turtle imports to the U.S. were banned, due to the Convention on Trade in Endangers Species (CITES) and pressure from environmental groups. The trade ban bankrupted the Cayman Island Turtle Farm. Without income from turtle soup sales to fund operations, green sea turtle releases were reduced. The Cayman Island government took over the turtle farm for a tourist attraction (as Andrew Morris describes in his PERC essay above).
Wild animals can be popular attractions for tourism, and tourism can create local jobs and generate revenue for wildlife restoration. But tourism seems not as powerful an economic driver for restoring green sea turtle populations as a thriving commercial turtle soup industry would be.
By what right do government agencies decide that some species can be raised commercially and consumed while others cannot? Allowing green sea turtles to be raised on farms and sold to consumers as food would quickly allow wild turtle populations to be restored. Banning turtle farming, trade, and consumption keeps green sea turtles endangered.