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International Sea Turtle Conservation

A hatchling Kemp's ridley turtle heads out to sea. 


Local Colombian fishermen being trained on how to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs). TEDs are used by shrimp boats to allow entangled sea turtles to escape.

Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles that inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world.  Because of their biological characteristics and migration patterns, sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to incidental capture (also known as bycatch).  In the United States, all sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act.  NOAA Fisheries carries out domestic and international conservation activities for sea turtles in the marine environment.

Setting the Stage Internationally

As sea turtles are highly migratory and therefore range across ocean basins, it is critical for the United States to work with other countries to promote sea turtle conservation internationally.  Given NOAA Fisheries’ jurisdiction in the marine environment, a significant portion of our work is focused on mitigating sea turtle bycatch in commercial and recreational fisheries.  Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the United States worked to implement several actions to improve the international conservation of sea turtles.  These actions included: 

More information about these efforts can be found in the biennial report to Congress on the international provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act(MSRA).

In addition to working bilaterally with other countries, NOAA Fisheries Service has worked through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to adopt sea turtle resolutions Exit that require implementation of the FAO guidelines, increased observer coverage, increased data reporting, and changes in fishing gear and practices. 

More Information

For more information on sea turtles, please visit the NOAA Fisheries sea turtle page.