Sea Turtles face many threats in the wild. Some are natural, such as their predators and diseases.

Most of sea turtle species are endangered, with Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbills being critically endangered. Unfortunately, it is mostly humans who are to blame for that. Most of the threats that affect sea turtle survival are man-made.

The threats that affect sea turtles the most:

  • Overfishing and bycatch
  • Ghost nets and other pollution (including plastic pollution on beaches and in the water)
  • Climate change and ocean contamination
  • Poaching for their meat and eggs
  • Destruction of habitats and disturbance by human activities on beaches

Below we elaborate on each of these threats as well as mention what each one of us can do to reduce these threats.

Sea Turtle
Threats to sea turtles
Overfishing threat to sea turtles



Overfishing & Bycatch

Sea turtles suffer from overfishing as they are often caught as an unintended bycatch. Mostly, they are injured and do not survive. The less sustainable fishing activities damage the ecosystems, affecting the natural food chains which can also influence the environment of sea turtles.

One of such effects we see on Curaçao at Ascension Bay, where we have a large influx of Sargassum seaweed. Due to the changes in ecosystems, the seaweed is thriving. The life below the Sargassum seaweed cannot survive. The sea turtles, that swim into it, can become tired and thus, unable to swim out of it. Under the heating sun, they dry out and die.

Climate change and contamination

Climate change & Ocean contamination

The changes in the habitat that occur due to climate change, can influence the survival of sea turtles. One such factor is the rise in temperatures, which affects the temperature in a nest. The temperature influences the gender of hatchlings, while they are in eggs. Higher temperatures lead to more females being born. The disproportionate amount of female sea turtles can influence the survival of species as a total.

The contamination of oceans is another threat, which causes the increase in fibropapilomatosis (tumours) cases in sea turtles, also including those found around Curaçao. The increase in toxins in the water can cause other long-term health issues in sea turtles.

Ghost-nets and pollution

Ghost Nets & Pollution (plastic, hooks, etc.)

Pollution is one of the main threats faced by sea turtles. They become entangled in ghost nets, unable to swim out for air. As a result, they suffocate. They can also become entangled in smaller pieces of nets, as well as in other pollution floating in the water. These can injure them and result in loss of limbs and other problems. Hooks lost by fishermen can pierce their thick skin and get stuck, as well as they can be swallowed together with food.

Plastic pollution is a great threat to sea turtles as floating in the water it can be mistaken for food by the sea turtles. Stuck in their intestines and stomachs, the sea turtles are unable to feed and digest food properly. In addition, the plastic found on the beach presents a big obstacle to nesting females and hatchlings. The females might be unable to dig a nest, due to the pollution on the beach and hatchlings can get stuck in it, on their way to the sea.

Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao is working together with Green Phenix to reduce plastic pollution on Curaçao. In addition, we often organize beach clean-ups to reduce the pollution on the nesting sites on Curaçao and in the sea.

Contact us if you would like to join our clean-ups.

Human activities on beaches

Destruction of habitats and disturbing human activities on beaches

The beaches that sea turtles choose for nesting, can also be attracting for real estate investors. Resorts are built and beaches are altered to fit human ‘recreational’ and entertainment activities. Fewer beaches become available for sea turtles to nest. In addition, bright lights, sunbeds, noise, campfires and other human activities on the beaches can be disturbing to sea turtles. With fewer sea turtles being able to nest or finish nesting successfully, fewer eggs and hatchlings are present, resulting in a reduced total population.


Poaching for meat and eggs

In some cultures, turtle meat and eggs are considered a delicacy. Sea turtles are protected animals, therefore their hunting and consumption is illegal. Nonetheless, they are often poached. Poached turtles are sold for their meat. The nests can be dug up and the eggs are also sold and consumed.

Possible solutions: each of us can have an impact

Education & Awareness

Educating children and adults about sea turtles and their importance in the ecosystem, as well as creating awareness about the dangers they face are one of the most important tasks for STCC and other conservation organizations. Knowledge can help to reduce the dangerous behaviour of people, which is often caused by ignorance.

Choose sustainable fish sellers

Sustainable fishermen are more likely to follow fishing practices that do not harm our ecosystems as much.

Reduce your consumption of plastic & don’t litter on a beach

If less plastic is consumed, there is a smaller risk of it ending up in the oceans and on the beaches. Choose alternatives and packaging, including for take-away food, that are made of bio-degradable sources and can be composted at home. Commercial composting or bio-degradable plastic still presents a danger, as it needs high temperatures (above those originating naturally from the Sun) to bio-degrade.

Choose to bring your own reusable cutlery, bottles and dishes instead of using single-use plastic options.

Avoid using balloons and letting them fly away.

Avoid campfires and bright lights on beaches

Most sea turtles nest and hatch at night. Any bright light can disturb nesting females, preventing them from nesting successfully.

When hatching, the baby sea turtles follow the brightest light in order to find the ocean. Bright sources from artificial lights can disturb them.

Campfires pose a danger of ‘cooking’ the eggs in a nest under the sand. Nests can be invisible from above the sand. Unintentionally, you might set fire above a nest, heating up the sand under it, making it impossible for the eggs to survive.

Organize or join beach and in-water clean-ups

The more trash can be picked up from the beaches and oceans, the less likely it is to harm sea turtles. You can always join us for clean-ups, organize your own or join an organization in your country which does regular clean-ups. It is a great exercise too!

Support local upcycling

By purchasing products made from 100% post-consumer plastic can help to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up as trash. This reduces the volume of plastic on landfills as well as on beaches. Preferring upcycled product over those made from virgin plastic can put more value on used plastic, motivating the reuse of plastic.

Use boats carefully

Boat strikes are another common threat to sea turtles, as they often stay close to the surface. Be careful when boating, to avoid a collision with sea turtles in the water. Also, avoid anchoring at coral reefs and seagrass beds, as those are important grounds for feeding and resting for sea turtles.