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Sea Turtle Week 2024: Partners in Conservation

June 17, 2024

A message from Kim Damon-Randall, director of NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, for Sea Turtle Week, June 17–21.

Green sea turtle foraging in the shallow waters off Kona, Hawai‘I Island. A green sea turtle swims in the waters off O’ahu, Hawaii. These turtles are herbivores, eating mostly seagrasses and algae. This diet gives their fat a greenish color (not their shells), which is where their name comes from. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Ali Bayless

Welcome to NOAA Fisheries’ Sea Turtle Week 2024! This week-long celebration is an annual event to highlight sea turtle conservation and partnership. This year our celebration highlights scientists working to conserve sea turtles, partnerships across the globe, and what you can do to save sea turtles. 

All six species of sea turtles that inhabit U.S. waters are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act:

We lead the conservation and recovery of sea turtles in the marine environment including areas for resting, feeding, migrating, and access to nesting sites. We use innovative techniques to study and protect sea turtles. 

Working Closely With Partners

We work closely with partners across the nation and the globe to conserve and recover sea turtles. Sea turtles travel thousands of miles each year to breed, forage, and seasonally migrate. Coordination and partnerships with many different communities are critical to understand and reduce threats to these species.   

Working With Mexico to Reduce Sea Turtle Bycatch

Researchers and local fishers in Mexico
Researchers and local fishers in Mexico co-design net configurations to create low-bycatch fishing gear. Credit: Raquel Briseño Dueñas

Coastal waters around Mexico are an important habitat for six sea turtle species, including the endangered loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. In recent decades, both populations have suffered declines due to numerous threats, including incidental capture in fisheries, also known as bycatch.  

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Sea Turtle Bycatch Reduction Project is a collaborative effort to recover North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles and East Pacific leatherback sea turtles, as well as other sea turtle species. The project reduces sea turtle bycatch in gillnet and longline fisheries and promotes sustainable fisheries. Through this collaboration, project partners are building trust with local communities along the Pacific coast of Mexico to develop bycatch reduction solutions together with local fishers. An example of this successful work is the co-design and testing of new low-bycatch fishing gear, such as buoyless nets targeting halibut and other bottom-dwelling fish.

Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network 

a women with a stranded loggerhead turtle
A stranding responder measures a stranded loggerhead sea turtle on a Florida beach. Credit: Florida Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network

The Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network is a cooperative effort of federal, state, and permitted private partners. Its goal is to better understand sea turtle strandings to improve conservation efforts. This collaborative network: 

  • Collects data on dead, sick, injured, and cold stunned sea turtles
  • Documents wounds and abnormalities
  • Transports sick and injured sea turtles to permitted rehabilitation facilities
  • Educates the public about sea turtle conservation

The Network needs your help. If you see a sick or injured sea turtle, contact your local sea turtle stranding network for assistance. A trained and authorized responder can take appropriate action. 

What You Can Do To Save Sea Turtles

You can do your part to help conserve sea turtles by being conscious when making choices in and around the water. Here’s how you can protect sea turtles: 

Slow Down and Look Out

Sea turtles surface to breathe and linger on the surface while breathing. Larger turtles—subadults and adults—have slower reflexes and may have a hard time responding to quick-moving boats and jet skis. When boating near reef or seagrass habitats, harbors, jetties, and boat ramps, or near  nesting beaches during the nesting season, reduce your speed to 10 knots or less. Keep an eye out for sea turtles. 

Retrieve and Recycle Fishing Gear or Plastic Marine Debris

Keep a close eye on your gear while fishing, especially in areas where turtles are present. Hooks, lines, or nets left in the water can entangle and kill sea turtles. If you lose your gear while fishing or find abandoned gear (or plastic debris), pull it out of the water safely and dispose of it properly. Gear and plastics in the water or tangled up on reefs can catch, injure, or drown a sea turtle.

Keep Your Snacks to Yourself

Sea turtle diets vary by species, and include jellyfish, crabs, mollusks, sponge, algae, and seagrass. However, they can become accustomed to being fed by humans and can develop an unnatural taste for commonly used bait such as fish or squid. This makes them more likely to take a baited hook, increasing the risk of hooking or entanglement. 

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on June 20, 2024