Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are marine reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers that are well-adapted to life in the ocean. Six species are found in U.S. waters, all of which are listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act

Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females lay their eggs on land. They migrate hundreds to thousands of miles every year between feeding grounds and nesting beaches. Leatherback turtles are among the most highly migratory animals on earth, traveling as many as 10,000 miles or more each year.

Sea turtles face significant threats around the world including:

  • Bycatch in commercial and recreational fisheries.
  • Loss and degradation of nesting and foraging habitats due to coastal development, pollution, and climate change.
  • In some areas, killing of turtles and collection of eggs for consumption.
  • Entanglement in marine debris.
  • Vessel strikes.

In the United States, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shared jurisdiction for recovery and conservation of threatened and endangered sea turtles. We lead the conservation and recovery of sea turtles in the marine environment, while the U.S. FWS has the lead for the conservation and recovery of these animals on nesting beaches.

Internationally, the conservation and recovery of sea turtles requires multilateral cooperation to ensure the survival of these highly migratory species. We work to ensure the global conservation and recovery of sea turtles by working closely with other nations through diplomatic channels, capacity building, and scientific exchange.

Learn more about sea turtles.


Species News

Large black and white sea turtle swims in the blue ocean with yellow and black striped fish The Pacific leatherback sea turtles have existed in their current form without scales and a hard shell since the age of the dinosaurs, but threats from bycatch, egg harvesting, and degradation of nesting habit have made this species endangered. Photo credit Jason Isley, Scubazoo.
Dolphin surfaces the water. $7.2 million in restoration projects are proposed for marine mammals, including dolphins. Image: Florida FWC/Rebekah Nelson
Two men stand with masks and gloves in front of dozens of green sea turtles inside of a convention center. Veterinarians Dr. Brian Stacy (NOAA Fisheries) and Dr. Tom deMaar (Gladys Porter Zoo) with thousands of cold stunned green turtles recovering at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Activities authorized by NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A NOAA aerial survey crew gathers in front of a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft during a stop in Astoria, Oregon. A NOAA aerial survey crew gathers in front of a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft during a stop in Astoria, Oregon in 2014. From left: Lt. Michael Sandor Silagi, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations; Joel Schumacher, Scott Benson, and Tomoharu Eguchi, Southwest Fisheries Science Center; Camryn Allen, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center; Dan Prosperi, Southwest Fisheries Science Center; and Lt. Shanae Coker, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

Research

Peer-Reviewed Research

Publications by Northeast Passive Acoustic Research Staff

Our staff regularly publish their findings in scientific journals and Center-produced documents…

Protected Species Gear Research

Eric Matzen collecting data during buoyless lobster trap tests. Testing gear with fishermen under actual fishing conditions is key to developing modifications that can reduce whale entanglements without significant loss of the targeted catch. …

Peer-Reviewed Research

Regional Variation in Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Diet Composition and its Potential Relationship with Somatic Growth

Understanding the relationship between sea turtle foraging ecology and somatic growth dynamics.

Southwest Fisheries Science Center Stock Assessments

Population assessments are a key component of marine resource management. These assessments allow us to evaluate and report the status of managed fisheries, marine mammals, and endangered/threatened species under the authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens…

Insight

Recovery of Endangered and Threatened Species

Learn how NOAA Fisheries works with partners to protect and recover endangered and threatened marine species.

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Species

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