Protecting marine turtles in the Indo-Pacific

Six of the world's 7 marine turtle species are found in the Coral Triangle.

Remarkably, despite the myriad threats these species face, many populations of marine turtles in the region can recover with adequate intervention.

What will it take?

 / ©: Cat Holloway / WWF-Canon
Hawksbill turtles live on coral reefs where their favourite food, sponges, are most plentiful. Fiji
© Cat Holloway / WWF-Canon

What makes turtles so special?

Turtles are a fundamental link in the Coral Triangle's fragile ecosystems. For example, turtles help to maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs which are home to commercially-valuable species such as shrimp, lobster, and countless other species.

Turtles have major cultural and social significance, and also draw visitors from around the world. The Coral Triangle hosts breathtaking sites that are visited by turtles and tourists alike, such as Tubbataha Reef in the Western Philippines, and Sipadan Island in Eastern Malaysia, Bunaken in Indonesia.

For local residents, the flow of visitors who come to admire turtles is a vital source of income.

A lifetime of great journeys

Marine turtles can undertake migrations of up to 12,000 km, but unfailingly come back to the exact same beach where they were born decades ago.

For example, the leatherback and loggerhead turtles travel across the entire Pacific Ocean between feeding and nesting grounds—a journey that is more than one-third of the way around the world.

Deadly threats at every life stage

Leatherback and loggerhead marine turtles are at risk of vanishing from the Pacific Ocean. In the Coral Triangle, several factors threaten all turtle species:
  • Illegal trade and direct consumption (meat, eggs, shell, leather, curios)
  • Bycatch (trawlers, longlines, gill nets)
  • Habitat destruction and alteration (coastal tourism, industrial development)
  • Pollution
  • Disease
  • Climate change
In Indonesia alone, it is estimated that as many as 7,700 turtles are killed every year by accidental catch in shrimp trawls and tuna longlines.
 / ©: WWF
Infographic: Marine turtles in the Coral Triangle.
© WWF
© WWF

What WWF is doing

The benefits of saving marine turtles go far beyond simply protecting these remarkable species. Conservation efforts will make fisheries more sustainable and provide benefits to small communities.

But to be effective, turtle conservation calls for protection of the full range of destinations visited by turtles during their life cycle—places such as beaches, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, open ocean, and migratory pathways that cover several countries.

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