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Troubled Waters: A Turtle’s Tale

Airs Sunday, April 26, 2020 at 3 p.m. + PBS Video App

Shown: Sea turtle and fish. Warming seas and sand temperatures impact the gen...

Credit: Courtesy of Ben Hicks

Above: Shown: Sea turtle and fish. Warming seas and sand temperatures impact the gender of the hatchling. Scientists have not found a single male hatchling on the beaches of Boca Raton, Florida, in over three years.

Film Explores The Impact Of Human Behavior On Our Environment As Seen Through The Lens Of The Sea Turtle

Available to stream on demand!

“Troubled Water’s: A Turtle’s Tale” is a one-hour film that explores the impact of human behavior on our environment as seen through the lens of one of South Florida’s most beloved and fragile underwater creatures—the sea turtle.

Featuring acclaimed actor and ocean activist Ted Danson and narrated by Peter Coyote, this one-hour film will take a critical look at the effects of global warming, water pollution and our “throw-away” plastic lifestyle on this keystone species…and inevitably ourselves.

Troubled Water’s: A Turtle’s Tale: Preview

Narrated by award-winning actor Peter Coyote, “Troubled Water’s: A Turtle’s Tale” features interviewers with marine biologists, ocean conservation experts and volunteers who rehabilitate injured, sick sea turtles and return them to the wild. The documentary examines the effects of global warming, water pollution, red tide and other human-made problems endangering sea turtles, including boat strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and the dramatic escalation of a tumor-causing virus.

Human impact on endangered sea turtles ranges from climate change, rising seas, commercial fishing, polluted waters, discarded nets, hooks and fishing lines, and most significantly, trash, specifically plastic in our oceans.

With ocean health intricately linked to human activity, “Troubled Waters” will reveal some of the technological advancements that are tackling the challenges faced by turtles and other marine mammals today.

At the center of “Troubled Waters” is a dedicated team of biologists, researchers and conservationists. The story begins on the shores of Palm Beach County, Florida, where conservationists at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center rescue and rehabilitate thousands of injured sea turtles a year, many of whom are found wrapped in trash, struck by boats or poisoned from toxic waters.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Ben Hicks

Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish.

Conservationists interviewed say nearly 100 percent of baby sea turtles are found with bellies filled with plastics, causing birth defects, food chain issues and all too often, premature death.

Down in the Florida Keys, Marathon Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach, alongside a team of experts, work diligently every day to save, rehabilitate and release turtles.

The world’s first licensed veterinarian hospital for sea turtles, founded by Richie Moretti in the 1980s, tackles yet another life-threatening problem specific to our sea turtles – a virus called Fibropapilloma.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Ben Hicks

One hundred percent of hatchlings that enter the Sea Turtle Hospital at Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach, Florida, have mico-plastics in their digestive tract.

At Florida Atlantic University (FAU), one marine biologist has dedicated the last 40 years of her career to solving the profound effect of rising temperatures on the sex of sea turtle hatchlings.

On Florida’s Gulf Coast, a young marine biologist spends grueling hours in the sun recovering deceased turtles and other marine life along the coast due to the unrelenting toxic red tide bloom of 2018.

Water management, fertilizer, chemical runoff, development, spraying of herbicides in our lakes, and the role of the Everglades no longer able to filter water, all energizing a toxic stew, much like warm waters feed and strengthen a hurricane.

While Florida serves as the heart of the film, the story extends across the U.S. to the National Energy Commission in Golden Colorado where chemical engineers are using bacteria and microbes to develop plastics that may one day decompose in just one year as opposed to hundreds or even thousands.

“Troubled Waters” will lead viewers to one single conclusion, that this is not simply a Florida problem, it is indeed a worldwide concern. While education, political will, technology and science offers hope, changing human behavior is crucial.

The film will reveal the challenges confronting the largest resource of life on earth and offer solutions and actions that can be taken to help turn back the tide.

Download a teacher's guide for 6th - 8th grade (PDF file: To view download Acrobat Reader)

Photo credit: Courtesy of Ben Hicks

Shown: Sea turtle. The documentary features interviews with acclaimed actor and ocean activist Ted Danson, as well as the biologists, researchers and conservationists devoted to saving a species with a past as old as the dinosaur.

Watch On Your Schedule:

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The film is also available to stream online with the KPBS Video Player.


Presented by WLRN and American Public Television (APT).


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