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Celebrating Sea Turtles

Calling all sea turtle lovers! In honor of World Sea Turtle Day on June 16, 2014, we're taking a special look at sea turtles species found
in U.S. waters and the science we use to protect these magnificent marine creatures. Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers. These turtles inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world. Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females must return to beaches on land to lay their eggs. They often migrate long distances between feeding grounds and nesting beaches.

View slideshow Green turtles are the largest of all the hard-shelled sea turtles, but have a comparatively small head. Adult green turtles are the only marine turtles to exclusively eat plants! seaturtleweek02.jpg seaturtleweek03.jpg seaturtleweek04.jpg seaturtleweek05.jpg seaturtleweek06.jpg

More on Sea Turtles

Working with our partners, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies. We:

Underwater Robots Search for Sea Turtles
Turtle Excluder Device (TED) Testing
For Rescued Sea Turtle Eggs, A Chance at Survival—Podcast
The Keratin Connection—Podcast
Movements of Leatherback Turtles in the Pacific
Tracing Sea Turtles Using their Genetic Fingerprints
First Satellite Tracks of Young Sea Turtles in the South Atlantic
Sea Turtle Facts

Of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in U.S. waters. All sea turtles occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 10 populations are endangered and 6 populations are threatened. 

Learn more about sea turtles below:  

Green turtle
Adult green turtles weigh up to 300-350 pounds and may reach 3 feet long. Green turtle hatchlings only weigh about 0.05 pounds and 2 inches long. Learn more...                           


In the Caribbean, an adult hawksbill eats an average of 1,200 pounds of sponges a year. Hawksbill turtles are capable of nesting faster than any other species of sea turtles and can complete the entire process in less than 45 minutes. Learn more...


Kemp’s ridley
Female Kemp's ridleys nest from May to July, laying two to three clutches of approximately 100 eggs. These eggs incubate for 50-60 days. Kemp's ridleys are the only sea turtle species that nests predominantly during daylight hours. Kemp’s ridleys primarily nest in Mexico and are largely found in the waters of Mexico and the United States. During the mid-20th century, the Kemp's ridley was abundant in the Gulf of Mexico. Historic information indicates that tens of thousands of ridleys nested near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, during the late 1940s.  The population experienced a devastating decline between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s. The number of nests at Rancho Nuevo was at a record low of 702 in 1985, representing fewer than 250 nesting females.  Due to intensive conservation actions, the Kemp's ridley began to slowly rebound during the 1990s.  The number of nests increased about 15% each year through 2009.  However, since 2010 the number of nests  has decreased causing concern that the positive growth in the population seen over the last decades may have stalled or reversed. Learn more...

The largest leatherback on record (a male) stranded on the coast of Wales in 1988 and weighed almost 2,020 pounds. Leatherback turtles can dive deeper than 3,900 feet. Learn more...


Pacific loggerheads migrate over 7,500 miles between nesting beaches in Japan and feeding grounds off the coast of Mexico. Although they are good swimmers, loggerheads have callus-like traction scales beneath their flippers that allow them to "walk" on the ocean floor. Learn more...


Olive ridley
The olive ridley sea turtle is considered the most abundant sea turtle in the world, with an estimated 800,000 nesting females annually. On Rushikulya Beach in India, an estimated 200,000 turtles nested during a single “arribada ” (mass nesting period). Arribada’s are mass nesting events when females nest in the same place, at the same time. Only ridley species, olive and Kemp’s, nest in this way. The olive ridley has one of the most extraordinary nesting habits in the natural world. Large groups of turtles gather off shore of nesting beaches. Then, all at once, vast numbers of turtles come ashore and nest in what is known as an "arribada". During these arribadas, hundreds to thousands of females come ashore to lay their eggs. At many nesting beaches, the nesting density is so high that previously laid egg clutches are dug up by other females excavating the nest to lay their own eggs.  Learn more...