Image: Olive ridley turtles on beach
M. Muralidharan  /  Conservation International
Olive ridley turtles nest in massive numbers. The biggest populations are in Oman and India, where the species is especially vulnerable.
msnbc.com
updated 9/29/2011 3:44:14 PM ET 2011-09-29T19:44:14

There's a new best/worst places to live list – but this one is for endangered sea turtles. Experts on Thursday published a study showing that half of the worst places are on beaches in the Indian Ocean. As for the best beaches, most are in Australia, Brazil and Mexico.

India was singled out as having the biggest concentration of worst beaches. Female sea turtles bury their eggs in beach sand, creating a natural incubation system that takes about two months.

"This paper is a wake–up call for the authorities to do more to protect India's sea turtles and their habitats to ensure that they survive," B. C. Choudhury, a Wildlife Institute of India official and study contributor, said in a statement.

Experts have long known that six of the seven species of sea turtles around the world were threatened with extinction, but the study for the first time provides a guide for strategizing where to push for protections.

"This framework will help us effectively target our conservation efforts around the world," said Bryan Wallace, a Conservation International scientist and lead author of the study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS One.

Story: Loggerhead turtles get more help — but only on West Coast

The most significant threats to sea turtles are the accidental catch by fishermen going after other species, and the harvesting of turtle eggs for food and turtle shells for artisan products.

The study listed these populations as the most threatened:

  • Olive ridley turtles in the West Indian Ocean. Key nesting sites: India and Oman
  • Loggerhead turtles in the Northeast Indian Ocean. Key nesting sites: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar
  • Olive ridley turtles in the Northeast Indian Ocean. Key nesting sites: India and Sri Lanka
  • Hawksbill turtles in the Northeast Indian Ocean. Key nesting sites: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
  • Hawksbill turtles in the East Atlantic Ocean. Key nesting sites: Congo and Sao Tome et Principe
  • Loggerhead turtles in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. Key nesting sites: Cape Verde
  • Hawksbill turtles in the East Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: El Salvador, Nicaragua; Ecuador
  • Leatherback turtles in the East Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica
  • Loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: Japan
  • Hawksbill turtles in the West Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines

These populations were listed as the healthiest:

  • Loggerhead turtles in the Northwest Indian Ocean. Key nesting site: Oman
  • Green turtles in the Southeast Indian Ocean. Key nesting site: Australia
  • Hawksbill turtles in the Southeast Indian Ocean. Key nesting site: Australia
  • Hawksbill turtles in the Southwest Indian Ocean. Key nesting sites: Seychelles, French and British Overseas Territories
  • Leatherback turtles in the Southeast Atlantic Ocean. Key nesting site: Gabon
  • Green turtles in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. Key nesting site: Brazil
  • Leatherback turtles in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Key nesting sites: Trinidad; Guyana, French Guyana, Suriname
  • Green turtles in the East Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Mexico
  • Olive ridley turtles in the East Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
  • Green turtles in the South Central Pacific Ocean. Key nesting sites: French Polynesia
  • Green turtles in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Key nesting site: Australia
  • Hawksbill turtles in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Key nesting site: Australia

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Video: Turtles return to the sea in N.C.

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