Threats to Sea Turtles

Collection of eggs

Humans dig up many sea turtle nests for their protein needs or for selling. Turtle eggs are of importance in many coastal communities, and have traditionally been eaten for many years. Egg collection has passed sustainable limits in many other countries and this has resulted in decreased nesting turtle populations.

Catching turtles for human consumption and the illegal trade in turtle shells

Hunting of sea turtles for meat was widespread but with the decreased sea turtle populations and global conservation bans, the practice has been minimized in many countries. However, many other countries continue to hunt for sea turtles legally and illegally due to the long-standing traditions and fisheries. This is also true in many coastal communities in Liberia. Turtles are also hunted for their shells, which fetch the much-needed income for most locals. However, if a country is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the international trade in turtle meat, shell and eggs is illegal. Liberia and other countries in the world are signatories to the CITES treaty.

Destruction of nests by animals

Raccoons, dogs, crabs and birds are also known to eat turtle eggs. A large proportion of eggs laid are either eaten or disturbed, thus preventing their development into hatchlings.

Fisheries bycatch

Turtles can easily get caught in fishing nets, which may cause injury and death by drowning. In Liberia, artisanal fishermen killed many sea turtles especially the Leatherback, caught in their fishing nets. In some countries around the world, the fitting of Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) in shrimp nets, which has a trap door that allows the turtle to escape but keeps the fish in the net, is a positive step to reducing bycatch.


Accidental and deliberate discard of fishing gear means that there are a huge number of nets and hooks floating in the oceans around the world. Many turtles may get hooked or caught on these, and ultimately drown if they are unable to reach the surface to take their next breath. This is also a problem in Liberia.

Loss of nesting sites

Turtles return to the same beach on which they themselves hatched to lay their eggs. Construction of buildings and development of tourist resorts on nesting beaches can reduce the space for nesting and also increase the likelihood of disturbance from humans.

Artificial lighting on nesting beaches

Turtles use light to direct themselves to and from the sea – the oceanic horizon at night is brighter than the land horizon as the sea reflects more moon and starlight. Artificial lights from villages and building developments may disorient both adult turtles and hatchlings. If the disorientation leads them a distance away from the sea, it may result in them getting exhausted and dying before they return to the sea and may increase the chances of predation.

Climate change

Climate change has the potential of threatening the future of sea turtle populations. Climate change will impact sea turtle populations and their environment —the coral reefs, seagrasses, nesting beaches, etc. It has been proved that sex determination is temperature dependent. This means an increase in sand temperature will lead to a change in the ratio of male to female turtle hatchlings being produced.


Many types of diseases have been observed in sea turtles. Recent reports of a rise in the occurrence of fibropapillomas, a tumorous disease that can kill sea turtles, is believed to be caused by pollution.