The Plight of the Sea Turtle: Why Just One?

Only 1 in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive to maturity. A new film by Sea Shepherd documents a dangerous mission to save the world's last dinosaurs.

Sea Shepherd’s first feature-length, in-house documentary titled Why Just One? addresses the dramatic decline in sea turtles and the organization’s efforts to defend them. Set on some of the most beautiful but dangerous beaches in the world, a team risks everything to save the most vulnerable and ancient of creatures, sea turtles. For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have survived, witnessing the fall of the dinosaurs and the dawn of humankind. Now, there is a war taking place between poachers and conservationists that will determine their survival.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society supporters Richard Dean Anderson and Holly Marie Combs are lending their names as producers on the crowd-funded documentary feature Why Just One?

The documentary follows Sea Shepherd's 2015 sea turtle defense campaign, Operation Jairo, which took place in Honduras, Florida, and Costa Rica. Why Just One? focuses specifically on the sea turtle defenders’ successes and struggles of the ground campaign in Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican campaign takes place on the remote Pacuare Island and Moin Beach, the latter where Costa Rican turtle defender Jairo Mora Sandoval was brutally murdered on May 31, 2013 while attempting to protect leatherback turtle nests. Sea Shepherd named Operation Jairo in his honor. 


“We named Sea Shepherd’s sea turtle defense campaign after Jairo Mora Sandoval to honor his memory and continue his work to defend turtles. Without patrolling the beaches, we cannot tackle the problems of poaching turtles and their eggs. And without tackling the problems of poaching, we cannot save turtles from extinction,” said Captain Paul Watson, Founder, Sea Shepherd.

“This documentary highlights what we are doing for the turtles, what we can do for turtles, and what we must do for the turtles. Jairo made the greatest sacrifice known to humans to defend turtles.” - Captain Paul Watson

From death threats to attacks, from protecting sea turtles and their eggs, to interviews with Costa Rican activists and Sandoval's best friend, Why Just One? seeks to answer the question of why only one in one thousand sea turtles survive to maturity. 

The documentary also looks to answer why sea turtles are disappearing from the beaches of Costa Rica—raising another all-important question: can we save them in time? 

"This species which has survived so much, may not survive us." - Captain Paul Watson

Executive producer Anderson, a close friend of Watson who is best known to fans in the title role of the hit TV series MacGyver, says he hopes the film will bring world-wide attention to the “heart-breaking plight” of sea turtles.  “It is my hope, as Executive Producer, that this documentary will shed a bright light on a dire situation, and proceed to enlighten ALL of us to care about these endangered turtles, as well as ALL of our earth’s marine life."  

Associate producer Combs, who came to prominence on the TV series Charmed and currently appears on Pretty Little Liars, added: 

“Sea Shepherd has shined an international spotlight on the slaughter of dolphins in Japan and the documentary Why Just One? will bring that same international spotlight on the poaching of sea turtles in Costa Rica.” 

About the Film  

Produced, directed and edited by Michael Colin, Why Just One? reached its initial funding on Indiegogo in less that 24 hours and has backers from over 40 counties. It was released on November 1 in the US, and will be released in 84 territories and 10 languages. To learn more and watch the film, please visit

About Sea Turtles

There are seven species of sea turtles in the world. Four have been identified as "endangered" or "critically endangered,” and two are classed as "vulnerable,” by the IUCN Red List of Endangered species. Sea turtles are some of the oldest living creatures, one of the few who’ve watched dinosaurs evolve and become extinct. They are now facing the same fate as their predecessors.

Turtle Poaching/Operation Jairo

Sea turtle slaughter and egg poaching remain relatively unexposed and Costa Rica is often portrayed as an eco-touristic safe haven for animals. Why Just One? aims to increase international awareness of what is happening in Costa Rica and influence the government to take a more active role in protecting these creatures before it’s too late.

Watch the film

Sea Shepherd NYC Screening, Dec. 16: The screening is open to the public and will include a special appearance by Captain Paul Watson for a Q&A session after the film. Tickets are limited. Get yours here.

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