Green sea turtles are the ocean’s lawnmowers and meticulous gardeners of seagrass meadows. Just as mowing your lawn keeps it in its best condition, the green turtle’s grazing keeps expansive seagrass ecosystems healthy since trimming stimulates new growth!
Green sea turtles can live up to 80 years and are found in tropical to subtropical waters around the globe. One of the many areas the green turtle calls home is the beautiful archipelago of The Bahamas. The extensive shallow banks of The Bahamas, which consist of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, attract the turtles since it’s a wonderful place to feed.
Historically, green turtles were harvested for their meat which has led to lower population sizes globally. In response to this, the Bahamian government passed a law that gave “full protection to all marine turtles found in Bahamian waters by prohibiting the harvesting, possession, purchase, and sale of turtles, their parts, and eggs” in September of 2009. This incredible win for sea turtles was not the first step Bahamians had taken in the fight to protect them. For over 30 years, the Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, The Nature Conservancy Caribbean and the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation have been working to improve protection for green sea turtles.
As mentioned previously, green sea turtles feed on seagrass beds. Seagrass beds are highly sensitive to changes in water quality and thus these marvellous ecosystems can be highly indicative of the environmental condition that exists around them. The Perry Institute of Marine Science, another key partner of the Atlantis Blue Project, conducts rapid ecological assessments (REAs) of the seagrass meadows to better inform the restoration and management of these ecosystem, which helps provide crucial habitat for green sea turtles.
Atlantis is also a player in the Bahamian fight to help the green turtles. Every two years, females lay hundreds of eggs on the beaches near Atlantis. The Aquarists gently unearth the eggs and place replica nests in the Fish Hospital. Once the baby turtles hatch, Atlantis Aquarists take them to the beach and release them safely into the waters.
You can see these beautiful reptiles up close and in person at the Atlantis Paradise Island Hibiscus Lagoon!