LETS TALK TURTLES
“Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us.” Sir David Attenborough
I’ve had a life time love affair with turtles. They have fascinated me for as long as I remember. Steeped in symbolism, these beautiful creatures, are under threat and have become a global symbol for a very different reason - the devastation of plastic pollution. The Wild Side takes a look at the some of the cultural depictions of the turtle, the impact of humans are having on them and some simple measures we - as a business, are looking to take, in order to raise awareness and reduce the threat to these amazing and charismatic megafauna and other sea life.
Turtles - the facts
Turtles can live in both freshwater or seawater, but there are seven species of sea turtles. These are the Loggerhead Turtle, the Green Turtle, the Leatherback, the Hawksbill, the Kemps Ridley, the Olive Ridley and the Flat Back. The earliest known turtles date back 220 million years, making them one of the oldest reptiles groups. There are around 350 known species alive today, of which many are highly endangered.
They are ectotherms - or cold blooded, which means, that their internal temperatures vary according to the environment. They are classed as amniotes along with other reptiles, birds and mammals, they breathe air and do not lay their eggs underwater, despite many of the species living in or around water.
The study of turtles is called cheleniology, after the greek word for turtle. The largest turtle is the Leatherback Sea Turtle which has a shell length of around 2 metres and weighs up to 900 kg. The smallest turtle is the Speckled Padloper tortoise, found in South Africa at around 8 cm and 140g.
Turtle and Cultural Mythology
Turtles are depicted as easygoing, patient and wise. They have important roles in mythology around the world and are often implicated in “Creation Myths”. They symbolise wisdom and knowledge, as well as personifying water, the moon, The earth, time, immortality and fertility.
In African fairy tales the tortoise is the cleverest animal, while in ancient Mesopotamia the turtle was associated with the God Enki. The tortoise was a fertility symbol in Roman and Greek times. In Hindu mythology, the world is thought to rest on the backs of four elephants who stand on the shell of a turtle and in Vietnam, many legends connect closely to the turtles. In South American cultures the myth says that the turtle obtained its mottled shell in a fall to Earth, as it attempted to reach the heavens with the help of an eagle, in order to play a flute at the celebrations and in North America, the World Turtle carries the Earth upon its back. In Mohawk tradition, the trembling or shaking of the earth, is thought to be a sign that the World Turtle is stretching beneath the weight it carries.
There are strong links between Hawaiians and turtles too. The Hawaiian Honu or Green Sea Turtle is a symbol of good luck and is the eternal link between man, the land and sea. It is depicted as the guardian spirit (Amakua). As legend goes, a green sea turtle called “Kauila” could change herself in to a girl to watch over the children playing at Panalu’u Beach on The Big Island. But perhaps my favourite legend of all is that the Marquesas - the first humans to travel to the Hawaiian Islands were guided by the sea turtles.
Turtles In Hollywood
Perhaps the most famous turtles depicted in Hollywood were the fearless foursome, the Ninja turtles. But I believe that the wonderful turtles in Finding Nemo, are the ultimate depiction. Crush is a 150 year old sea turtle, who is young at heart and wise in attitude. As in the Hawaiian myth, he guides Marlin and Dory to safety, offering his laid back philosophy of life. Son Squirt - is playful and idolises his father. Together they travel on the ocean currents and it is indicated that their home is Hawaii - like many of life’s greatest surfers.
So popular were their characters, that they have made appearances and had cameo roles in many other movies, including Crush appearing in Lava and also as a mosaic during the credits of WALL*E and Pixar movie Lava - while Squirt appears in Moana as the rescued baby turtle.
Turtles - as an endangered species
Turtles are under great threat. Nearly every species is classified as endangered. Not only do they remain a delicacy in may parts of the world - they are also slaughtered for their eggs, skin and shells. They are in danger from overfishing - by getting trapped in the vast nets left in the world's oceans and climate change has affected their environment, as well as the corrupt tourism trade, which has found huge hotels and resorts being built on beaches and breeding grounds that have been used by the turtles for hundreds and thousands of years.
And perhaps the single biggest current threat to turtles, is the devastation of plastic pollution. Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals such as sea turtles and cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) together with more than a million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic and other marine waste. Most of this waste reaches the seas via rivers and over 80% of this rubbish originates from landfill and urban environments.
It is estimated that in the next 50 years, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish. Plastic is getting in to the ecosystem at every level. Plankton have been found feeding on nurdles (pre production raw pellets, formed when you turn oil into plastics) and other plastic debris, that has broken down. Fish feed on plankton, mammals (including humans) feed on fish. Birds and mammals have also been found dead on beaches around the world with vast levels of plastics in their stomachs. The record number of pieces of plastic found in one 90 day old sea chick was 276 pieces - or the equivalent of 12 pizzas (6 - 8Kg) inside a human stomach.
One of the main feeding sources for turtles, are jellyfish. Unfortunately, plastic bags are being mistaken for food. These bags are not only toxic, as they are petroleum based - but they also block the digestive systems once eaten, causing long painful deaths.
FACTS THAT WILL SHOCK YOU:
Worldwide - as many as 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year - 380 billion alone are used in America. It takes 100 million barrels of oil to produce this many bags.
In 2015 - it was estimated that more than 15 trillion pieces of plastic trash were in the ocean.
Less than - 5% plastic is recycled worldwide each year.
The average - useful timespan for plastic is 12 minutes - but in many cases it's actually much less.
It takes - three litres of water to make one “one litre” water bottle.
Turtles and Red Snapper Sports
As an individual, having a passion and an affinity for the oceans and the sea life within it is one thing. But as a business, who's primary function is to encourage others to go and experience nature from a paddle boarders perspective - and provides opportunities for others to experience the same joy we do, we have a duty of care to protect and educate .... as well as having a fantastic platform to do it from.
Our ethos is very much in the Spirit of Aloha. Translated as the “presence of breath", Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. And paddle boarding brings together the very essence of linking together "man, the land and sea"
We have made a number of pledges as a business and these are:
To educate and inspire - people to respect and protect the sea, through a number of initiatives.
To reduce our impact on the planet and the oceans - by working with businesses that help to reduce our carbon footprint and highlighting the fantastic work and projects, that so many organisations are undertaking.
High end, quality products - which increases their lifespan, and keeps them out of landfill. We believe in quality over quantity.
Charitable pledge - Res Snapper Sports will be allocating a percentage of its sales, to be distributed to ocean projects of significant importance.
Spreading the “Aloha Spirit” - this is present in everything we do, from our designs, to our communication, to our attitudes, to our outlook