Oceanic Society SWOTs up to help Hawksbill turtles
By Cecily Morgan
Turtles swimming through bright coral reefs may be a familiar image used for screensavers and seaside souvenirs, but the reality of this scene is far from pretty. Hawksbill sea turtles, recognisable by their pointed faces and dappled shells, are classed as critically endangered species, with an ever-sinking population.
Most comfortable in warm waters, these turtles can be found in the tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Here, they are vital contributors to healthy reefs as their consumption of sponges and other prey makes it easier for their reef fish friends to feed. They are also an important factor in attracting tourists eager for a glimpse of the beauties, and in turn significantly boost the economy.
However, unfortunately, several factors continue to threaten their future. An obvious example is pollution. From oil spills to chemical runoffs, the ocean is permeated with pollutants that are toxic to turtles. Not to mention plastic, which is notoriously lethal to turtles, responsible for over 1,000 turtle deaths each year. However, the most major threat is the bycatch of fisheries, in which millions of sea turtles have been accidentally captured since 1990, according to scientists.
Although these figures are alarming, there are charities protecting these precious sea creatures, aiming to prevent any further dive in population. For example, the State of the World’s Sea Turtles (SWOT) programme. Established in 2003, SWOT is a collaboration between the Oceanic Society, the IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Duke University's OBIS-SEAMAP, and a number of other institutions. The SWOT Team gathers data on turtles that can aid their conservation and management worldwide.
In addition, SWOT hosts an annual competition in an effort to support priority sea turtle projects. Thus far, they have given 65 $1,000 grants to 56 projects benefiting 48 priority sea turtle sites. Studying the effects of oil pollution in Brazil, training fishermen in Ghana, improving turtle photo identification techniques, and removing ghost fishing gear in the Indian Ocean are just a few examples of the turtle-saving projects that SWOT grants are funding.
This is where we come in. With the profits made from the sale of the Turtle socks, we are able to help the Oceanic Society fund these SWOT grants. Aqua and sky-blue, our cool Turtle socks will not only bring a refreshing touch of tropical style to your sock draw, they will contribute to the protection of a beautiful and endangered sea creature. You’ve ditched the plastic straws, now it’s time to take the turtle-saving action to your wardrobe.