By Alex Scott
Sea turtles are large, migratory reptiles that can be found in almost every ocean on Earth. There are seven extant species of sea turtle: green, loggerhead, olive ridley, hawksbill, and flatback, all of which are found throughout the world’s oceans, and Kemp’s ridley and leatherback, the former of which is solely found off the coast of the eastern United States. The flatback sea turtle lives and nests off the northern coast of Australia, while, leatherback sea turtles are widely migratory creatures and may swim up to 10,000 miles in one year.
Sea turtles spend most of their life in the open ocean, swimming to land only for the nesting season, which varies depending on the species. After mating at sea, a female sea turtle lays her eggs on a beach, always at night, sometimes at the beach where she herself was hatched. Once these eggs hatch, the hatchlings crawl back through the sand to the ocean, where, depending on the species, they can live up to 50 years. Sea turtles are vitally important to many ecosystems across the ocean floor, as they are one of only a few species that eat sea grass, which is an extremely important link in the marine food chain.
Since the beginnings of human civilization, sea turtle populations have been under constant threat from humans and human activity. Seaside cultures across the world, including those in England, China, Peru, Benin, and Cape Verde, considered turtle meat a delicacy and tortoiseshell a fine collectible. It is now illegal in most countries to hunt sea turtles, but poaching is still a problem worldwide. Sea turtles are also affected by accidental human activity, including pollution and being captured in fishing gear. Oil and plastic pollution is extremely detrimental to animals’ health, and light pollution on beaches during the turtles’ nesting season can disorient hatchlings. Many beaches that are known to be nesting grounds for turtles now have light ordinances during the nesting season to protect hatchlings on their way to the ocean. Turtles getting caught in fishing gear is called bycatch and contributes significantly to sea turtle deaths, but new fishing techniques and special nets have been developed that significantly reduce the risk of sea turtles being caught.
Since the 1950s there have been concerted effects across the globe to protect sea turtle populations. The WWF, IUCN, and hundreds of other marine conservation organizations work with marine biologists and volunteers across the world to rehabilitate turtle populations and educate the public about the importance of these animals to the world’s oceans. Not only are they studying the animals to provide the best care but also pressuring local and national governments to pass legislation that will ensure a safe and long future for the sea turtle.
Shelly Cove founder Matt Schroeder visited beautiful Topsail Beach in South Carolina a few times a year with his family when he was growing up. On one visit, he and his family discovered a small turtle hospital, called the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, and soon made a habit of visiting each time they were in town. A habit turned into a family tradition as their visits helped them develop friendships with the staff. A family tradition turned into a mission as Matt and his family learned about turtle conservation efforts, threats to the animals’ safety, and how they could help support safe and healthy marine habitats.
Matt started an apparel business in his garage with the determination to succeed only if he could bring attention to another cause and make a genuine positive impact. He wanted his new adventure to support the local community, encourage people to make positive change, and also directly donate to organizations doing good for the world.
Just a year after graduating from Covenant College in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Matt’s growing clothing company, Shelly Cove, had found so much success that he was able to make it a full-time job. Now, with a team of creative, kind, and self-starting individuals, Shelly Cove just celebrated five years of sea conservation work and support, and they look forward to carrying on for many years to come.
“We created Shelly Cove shirts to be trendy and cute while helping to save some amazing sea creatures. We aren’t business experts with MBAs from elite schools. We are a scrappy group of 20-somethings with a dream and a vision, and we work incredibly hard to make it a reality.”
Shelly Cove’s mission: To serve with excellence, create with quality, and inspire communities to do good.
Do Good, Not Harm: In all of their business practices, Shelly Cove strives to make the world a better place. Their product sourcing, in-office sustainability, customer interactions, social media presence, and coworker and vendor relationships—all of it is meant to benefit people and the planet.
Camaraderie: They are a place that values teamwork and collaboration, and people are excited to come to work each day to learn from each other.
Initiative: Everyone knows their job description and will take initiative to go the extra mile to work smart and work hard. People are problem solving and innovating on their own.
Give Back: With strategic planning, they intentionally volunteer and give to specific organizations, which creates impact both locally and globally.
Transparency: Customers and employees alike know exactly what’s going on with their company. They disclose all business practices, like office recycling, sustainable sourcing, their company’s size, their mission and purpose, and all their donations. No one is left in the dark.
Shelly Cove plans to continue growing and to also keep giving back. They are always looking for ways to go the extra mile make their supply chain as sustainable as possible. Since their founding, the company has raised over $200,000 for sea turtle rehabilitation. They’ve also donated over $30,000 to wildfire relief, and they regularly invest in their local communities through donations of funds and recycled cardboard boxes to the Chattanooga Food Bank.
“We beachcomb for shells mostly, but we have been learning so much from the beachcomber community. We love the mix of beach care and beach fun!”
How you can help:
When they buy a shirt from Shelly Cove, they donate directly to sea turtle conservation. Chances are there’s someone else out there who could use your help! Don’t stop at just turtles. Explore organizations that help children, the elderly, the environment, homeless people, or stray animals. Programs like these exist in almost every community and are always worthwhile causes.
Another way you can do your part is reducing your use of single-use plastics. Bringing your own grocery bags and straws and drinking from reusable bottles whenever possible is a great place to start. Cooking at home more, walking whenever you can, and shopping locally are also ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Every little bit counts in the effort to save the planet we live on. If you can lead by example your friends and family will follow and soon we’ll all be living greener, together!
Learn more about Shelly Cove at shellycove.com and search online for other sea turtle conservation organizations to learn how you can help.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2021 issue.