For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have charted the seven seas. With their paddle-shaped flippers and hydrodynamic bodies, they are capable of crossing entire oceans, coming ashore only to build nests and lay their eggs. But over just a few short decades, these ancient and resilient creatures have succumbed to human activities, and their numbers are now plunging. Learn more about sea turtles and Earthjustice's efforts to protect them in this slideshow.
Once commonly found in oceans all over the world, many sea turtle species are now highly endangered because of human activity.
This green sea turtle, one of the more common species, swims along the coral reefs of Hawaii.
One of several types of sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico, loggerheads rely on Florida's waters and beaches for valuable nesting and foraging habitat.
After years of capture by commercial fisheries, Florida has seen its nesting loggerhead population plummet by more than 40 percent in the last decade.
Bottom longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the main culprits of sea turtle mortality.
The lines and hooks can snare turtles, causing them great injury or even death when they prevent turtles from surfacing for air.
A commercial longline rack rigged with commercial gear ready to be baited.
In Hawaiʻi, Earthjustice is representing conservation groups in litigation challenging a new rule by the National Marine Fisheries Service that doubles the number of endangered sea turtles allowed to be entangled and killed by the longline swordfish fishery.
Swordfish longline vessels trail up to 60 miles of fishing line suspended in the water with floats, with as many as 1,000 baited hooks deployed at regular intervals.
The new federal rule, opposed by conservation groups, rolled back the significant protections that had been gained through a 2011 settlement between the same parties.
Fishing lines and other plastic debris in the ocean can entangle and kill endangered sea turtles.
This Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is being untangled by government biologists in South Carolina.
Conservation groups and government agencies are working to restore sea turtle populations by closing off certain sections of beaches during their nesting season.
Sea turtles come up on land to lay their eggs before heading back to sea.
Olive Ridley sea turtles are among the smallest of the sea turtles. Although they are not hunted for their meat, Olive Ridley eggs are considered delicacies in some parts of the world, such as Central America.
Egg hunting is technically illegal, but the egg trade still continues.
Baby sea turtles instinctively head towards the ocean upon hatching.
Although a female turtle may lay 50–250 egg at a time, very few of the babies will actually survive to adulthood due to predation.
The world’s most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley faces an uphill battle in its struggle to survive.
Conservation groups like Earthjustice are now working to protect these magnificent creatures by curbing harmful fishing activities, such as longlining.