Baby Turtles Struggle Towards the Sea

A massive oil spill in 2019 continues to harm marine life on the northeastern coast of Brazil. 

In 2019, a massive oil spill devastated the northeastern coast of Brazil. The source of the spill, which is estimated at thousands of barrels, is still unknown. Today, oil slicks are still floating beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and covering large patches of the shoreline. More than 150 beaches have been affected. 

When the spill occurred, about 800 baby turtles that had hatched were prevented from reaching the sea. Tourism and fishing industries were also harmed. “All of the ecosystem was affected and suffered from this spill,” said Thaís Pires, a veterinarian at Projeto Tamar (Tamar Project), a nonprofit sea turtle conservation program. 

Projeto Tamar is helping to preserve the sea turtle population in areas where the spill occurred. “People didn’t remember what baby sea turtles were like,” Pires told me during my recent visit to the state of Bahia, where the spill occurred. “The eggs were consumed, and the baby sea turtles couldn’t make it into the ocean. The reproductive cycle was completely interrupted.” 


Clara talks with Carolina Soares, a biologist at Tivoli Ecoresort in Brazil. 


Projeto Tamar responded quickly to the environmental damage. Whenever they noticed baby sea turtles were about to hatch on the beach, they relocated the nests to areas that had not been damaged by the oil. Because of these early actions, Projeto Tamar was able to save many turtles’ lives. 

“The turtle is like an umbrella,” Pires explained. “When it’s protected, many other species are also protected.”

Members of the community also pitched in. According to Carolina Soares, a biologist at Tivoli Ecoresort, people worked together, gathering “kitchen buckets, gloves, and other materials to help clean the beaches.” 

Soares said that oil spills are not the only threat to turtles and other marine life. Plastic waste, for example, is clogging our oceans, poisoning fish, whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures. Every community should work together, she added, to make sure that beaches and other natural areas are “preserved.”  


Clara researches her article at home in Brazil.

Photos courtesy of the author