Critically Endangered Marine Turtles Need Your Help!

Green turtle diving destination
Green turtle on a healthy coral reef.

All divers love turtles. Usually seeing the first turtle under water is my OWD students best moment of the course. We love them and want to protect them, specially when we’ve realised that almost all turtle species are endangered due to many different challenges they have to face in developing planet, where almost nothing is the same anymore.

In Bunaken, where we lived for the past years, we were spoiled with turtles. Green and Hawksbill turtles were seen on almost every dive, sometimes up to 20 individuals. Snorkelers saw them all the time too. Some of them were huge and all Bunaken visitors remember Rambo on Lekuan 1, green turtle size on beetle (the car, not the bug). And when Rambo disappeared some time ago, we all mourned long. He must have been at least 100 years old and every time I saw that giant lizard, I was wondering how different the reef must have looked 100 years ago, how many fish and specially sharks there was, when boats with loud engines first appeared, then the divers came with noisy bubbles. What was he thinking inside that football size head of his, grumpy face looking at us. I will never know.

Hawksbill turtle is critically endangered species.
Hawksbill turtle looking for a sponge to eat, picture taken in Bunaken island last year.

What I can do is learn as much as possible about these magnificent underwater lizards and spread the word also to people who don’t know underwater world that well. PADI also offers AWARE Sea Turtle Conservation Speciality course, which I teach as well. By taking this course you will learn valuable information about turtles, why are they endangered and how to protect them by your own actions. On the course you’ll learn how to tell the difference between species and how to identify them. You will also know more about the guidelines of responsible interaction and what to do if you find a turtle that needs help.

Balicasag turtles scuba diving
Divers love turtles. Balicasag August 2016 by Heini Härsilä (like all the other pictures too).

Few days ago me and my student went to Balicasag to identify turtles for the conservation project. We found so many of gigantic green turtles but not any hawksbills (which are around but not as many). Balicasag has huge sea grass areas where green turtles are munching away barely noticing the divers passing by. We took identification pictures and marked down information about them.

Afterwards we posted the pictures to Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines  which adds the pictures to their turtle database. The more information we gather the more we know about the behaviour of these animals and what can be done in the future to protect them. There is still so much we don’t know about this vulnerable species and more information is definitely needed.


  • Approximately 300 000 turtles die every year as by-catch because of long lines only.
  • After turtle eggs have hatched and tiny turtles reach the sea, they disappear for 5-20 years. Those years are called “the lost years”.
  • Mature turtles undertake a breeding migration that can last up to 8 years!
  • Leatherback turtles have existed on the planet for 150 million years, and now the species is critically endangered.

Read more about the course:

If you’re interested of doing the course with me or you have any questions, please contact: divedreamers (at) gmail. com

❤ Heini

2 Comments Add yours

  1. They’re so graceful underwater. We spotted a few green and loggerheads on Nigaloo Reef, Australia. On the same trip we had to go and fetch out the water a few plastic bags, which could quite easily have the poor creatures. Hopefully more Eco tourism can help these beauties.


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