Addressing illegal trade and other threats
Climate change, accidental capture in fishing gear, ocean plastic and other pollution are just a few among many threats faced by marine turtles. Among the most critical are unsustainable take and the illegal trade of turtles for their meat, eggs and shells. To stop their populations from being decimated, we must dismantle the illicit trade.
Protecting important habitats
From reefs to seagrass meadows to the open sea, marine turtles inhabit diverse habitats in the ocean. Protecting these places allows turtles to thrive, but also thousands of other species - including humans - who rely on the healthy functioning of these ecosystems.
1 in 1000
It is estimated that only one in 1,000 hatchlings make it to adulthood.
World’s first traceability toolkit & global database of marine turtle DNA
ShellBank does exactly that. Established in 2018 and piloted in Australia in 2019, this transnational platform uses DNA and forensic analysis to form a comprehensive dataset which maps out populations and places where marine turtles nest and roam, as well as where they’re sold and likely poached.
Stories about sea turtles
Tracing the way home with dna
24 Nov 2022
ShellBank - New DNA toolkit and database set to disrupt the illegal marine turtle trade
The world’s first traceability toolkit and global database of marine turtle DNA - ShellBank, was ...
10 Nov 2022
Governments meet in Panama to decide the fate of wildlife threatened by poaching, illegal logging, ...
From trees to sharks – decisions to tackle the illegal and unsustainable trade in wild animals and ...
Marine turtles; Tortues marines (Fr); Tortugas marinas (Sp)
Open water and coasts
Cheloniidae / Dermochelyidae families
Vulnerable to Critically Endangered
Once the hatchlings exit their nest and reach the sea, a swimming frenzy ensues to reach open ocean zones where currents meet, and where the small turtles find food and refuge from their many predators. Only once marine turtles become adults do they return to the beach area where they were born to lay their own eggs.
Decades to reach maturity
The long time to reach maturity and the many natural dangers faced by hatchlings and juveniles mean that as few as 1 in 1,000 eggs will survive to adulthood.
Current Population and Distribution
5 of the 7 species are found around the globe (mainly in tropical and subtropical waters) while 2 species have relatively restricted ranges: Kemp's ridley occurs mainly in the Gulf of Mexico and the flatback turtle around northern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea.
Status of marine turtle species
Based on IUCN Red List
EN = Endangered
CR = Critically Endangered
DD = Data Deficient
Learn more: IUCN Red List
Marine turtles fulfil important roles in marine ecosystems. Expressed in value, marine turtles are also worth more than dead turtles. In recent years, for example, marine turtles have become increasingly important as an ecotourism attraction.
A WWF study from 2021 looked into the value of turtles for people in the Asia-Pacific, which estimates that households in Asia-Pacific would be on average willing to pay US$80 per year to help maintain healthy populations and habitats of sea turtles in the wild.
What is WWF doing?
- the loss and degradation of critical marine turtle habitats;
- the negative impact of bycatch on marine turtles;
- unsustainable use and illegal trade in marine turtles and turtle products.
To reach these objectives, WWF is working around the world to conserve marine turtles by:
- Establishing and strengthening protected areas around nesting beaches
- Raising awareness and promoting ecotourism at marine turtle sites, so that local communities become involved in and benefit from protecting turtles and their nests
- Promoting regional and international agreements to conserve marine turtles.
- Lobbying for turtle-friendly fishing practices, such as the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in nets.
- Halting the illegal trade of turtle meat and eggs, though TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring arm of WWF and IUCN.
Help Build ShellBank
Calling researchers, conservationists, policy makers and law enforcers, and all who are passionate about protecting marine turtles. To date, genetic data gaps still remain. To expand globally, it will require significant contributions to help build the global database. Find out more: shellbankproject.org