Hawksbill turtles are Critically Endangered and Leatherbacks are categorized as Vulnerable with a decreasing population trend in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Marine turtles play an important role in the marine ecosystem: all turtles (especially leatherbacks) feed on jellyfish. Jellyfish feed on fish larval.
When the marine turtle populations decrease, jellyfish flourish and fish stock diminish.
Hawksbills also play an essential role in the formation of coral reefs, because they feed on sponges sprouting on underwater rocks, creating space for new coral to grow and for fish to shelter, feed and spawn within the reef ecosystem.
It is estimated that out of 1500 turtle eggs only 1 hatchling will reach maturity.
The major threats for the survival of marine turtles are:
- Legal and illegal hunting
- Eggs harvesting
- Coastal development (cutting of mangroves and clearing of beach vegetation, the preferred nesting areas for hawksbills; artificial lights on nesting beaches because they disorient the hatchlings)
- Illegal and legal sand-mining
- Unwanted catches (by-catch) with nets and fatal entanglements in discarded fishing gear
- Ocean pollution (chemical and solid waste ingested: today in the Atlantic 6 parts of plastic were found to 1 part of phytoplankton!)
- Global Warming (higher sand temperatures produce more females than males and sea level rise shrinks nesting beaches).
Ocean contamination with heavy metals, methyl-mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, pesticides, bacteria, vibrio, salmonella and e-coli affect the larger marine species, bio-accumulating these poisons into their bodies.
Marine turtles and eggs as source of food may cause irreparable damage to humans health as well.