Written by Lily Haines, Communications Director, Perry Institute for Marine Science
We’re thrilled to announce our sponsored leatherback sea turtle, Big Blue, won first place in the 2022 Tour de Turtles marathon! Since the start of the race in June, she has traveled more than 3,600 miles (approx. 5,800 km) from her nesting beach in Panama to forage in the Gulf of Mexico, just north of Havana. That’s more than 63,000 football fields worth of swimming in just a few months!
Atlantis Paradise Island and the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation are long-term supporters of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Tour de Turtles: a fun and educational marathon that uncovers the science, research and geography of sea turtle migration using satellite telemetry. This exciting technology allows experts to monitor scores of racing leatherback sea turtles in real-time; each individual carries a tracking device and their location is calculated via satellites orbiting the earth. Over time, the turtle who dares to venture the furthest from their nesting ground in Panama is deemed the winner! Renowned for its catchy slogan, “saving sea turtles is a marathon not a sprint,” the Tour de Turtles aims to bring awareness to the major threats facing sea turtles globally; from climate change and boat strikes to light pollution, poor water quality and commercial egg harvesting.
This year, we sponsored Big Blue to draw attention towards the global plastic pollution crisis. Without a doubt, plastic pollution is choking our ocean and sea turtles are among its most vulnerable victims. Roughly 10 million tons of plastic end up in the sea each year – that’s a dump truck full of plastic each minute!
Sadly, this means leatherback turtles like Big Blue are impacted by plastic debris during every stage of their lives. They crawl through plastic on their way to the ocean as hatchlings, they swim through heaps and swirls of plastic while migrating to and from their nesting grounds and they often swallow synthetic materials like plastic bags, confusing them for algae or jellyfish (one of their favorite menu items). Ultimately, plastic debris is responsible for the deaths of 100 million marine mammals each year and thousands of sea turtles.
Plastic pollution can harm or kill sea turtles in a myriad of ways:
1. Ingestion: Once sea turtles ingest plastic debris there’s no turning back; sea turtles have downward facing spines in their throats, preventing the possibility of regurgitation. Plastic items like bags can easily get stuck in their stomachs, wreaking havoc on their digestive systems and their ability to swallow food. Another disheartening phenomenon called “bubble butt” occurs when plastic begins to decompose within the body of a sea turtle, releasing harmful gasses that cause the individual to float. Floating sea turtles have lost control of their bodies; they’re unable to hunt properly (often leading to starvation) and become easy targets for predators.
Large debris in the ocean like plastic bags, balloons, bottles, degraded buoys, and plastic wrappers eventually degrade into smaller (< 2mm) pieces called microplastics. Microplastics are easily ingested by sea turtles, are often toxic and can serve as hosts for invasive species that can have long-term consequences.
2. Entanglement: Sea turtles can become badly injured and incapacitated if they are entangled in plastic debris like fishing line and six-pack rings. Unfortunately, most entangled sea turtles will starve, drown, strangle or suffocate without human intervention.
Take action for our turtles
Every day, we encourage you to keep the health of our ocean top of mind. You can make a difference simply by creating a suite of ocean-friendly habits at home:
Reduce, Recuse, Recycle
REFUSE plastic bags while shopping; opt to bring your own reusable bag instead
Support local, regional and nationwide bans on plastic grocery bags
Don’t litter and don’t stand by while others do. If you see something, say something.
Every time you go to the beach, clean up at least 5 pieces of trash
Properly secure your trash bags to prevent any fly-away plastics
Say no to balloons! Balloons often travel high into the sky and end up in our ocean, where turtles often mistake them for food.
Spread the word! Brainstorm and discuss ocean-friendly habits with your classmates, family members and friends.
To get involved with the 2023 Tour de Turtles marathon and fundraise for turtle research and conservation, visit their website or check out the #TourdeTurtles hashtag on Twitter!
This is a project of the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation.
Manatee Mania: Latest Sightings and Stranding Workshop in The Bahamas
Hold on to your flippers, folks! The seas are buzzing with exciting news. While marine mammal strandings have thankfully been absent lately, manatees are making
The Bahamas SCTLD Response Team Members Attend Inaugural Black Women in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Science Conference
In January 2023, members of The Bahamas’ Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) Response Team had the exciting opportunity to attend the first-ever Black Women
Mangrove Report Card for The Bahamas
After years of painstaking research encompassing drones, satellite-based surveys and in-water surveillance from hundreds of different sites, the Perry Institute for Marine Science has released the Mangrove Report Card for The Bahamas! This landmark report is a first of its kind assessment on the health of The Bahamas’ incredibly valuable yet often under-appreciated mangrove ecosystems.
Atlantis-backed sea turtle “Big Blue” takes home the gold!
Written by Lily Haines, Communications Director, Perry Institute for Marine Science We’re thrilled to announce our sponsored leatherback sea turtle, Big Blue, won
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in The Bahamas: Island-by-island update
Written by Lily Haines, Communications Director at the Perry Institute for Marine Science Widely deemed the “deadliest immediate threat to Caribbean coral reefs,” Stony
Sawfish off Andros Island
For the past three years, the team from the non-profit Saving the Blue has developed relationships with various community members in Andros, and so from October to December in 2021 they conducted interviews with fishing guides and other water users. Their aim was to describe sawfish distribution patterns in Andros, and identify key regions or habitats where sawfish monitoring would be effective, and potentially lead to protection.