Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Sea Turtles

"For most of the wild things on Earth, the future must depend upon the conscience of mankind."
- Dr. Archie Carr, father of modern marine turtle biology and conservation
green turtle
green turtle
hawksbill turtle
hawksbill turtle
kemp's ridley turtle
Kemp's ridley turtle
leatherback turtle
leatherback turtle
loggerhead turtle escaping net with turtle excluder device
loggerhead turtle
olive ridley turtle
olive ridley turtle

Sea turtles, also called marine turtles, are air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers. They are well-adapted to life in the marine environment. They 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. Seven species have been identified worldwide. Six sea turtle species are found in U.S. waters (the flatback sea turtle is found only in Australia and Papua New Guinea).

What sea turtles are protected?

All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which provides similar protections to threatened and endangered sea turtles:

Sea turtles are also listed in CITES Appendix I, which regulates international trade.


Major threats to sea turtles in the U.S. include:

To reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles in commercial fisheries, we have enacted regulations to reduce bycatch in certain U.S. commercial fishing gears(gillnets, longlines, pound nets, and trawls) that have known, significant bycatch of sea turtles.

To address all threats to sea turtles, we have developed, with USFWS, recovery plans to direct research and management efforts for each sea turtle species.

More information on threats to sea turtles is on our website.

Conservation and Management

Since 1977, NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have shared shared jurisdiction for recovery and conservation of sea turtles listed under the ESA. A Memorandum of Understanding [pdf] outlines our specific roles: we lead the conservation and recovery of sea turtles in the marine environment, and USFWS has the lead for the conservation and recovery of sea turtles on nesting beaches.

International Conservation

The conservation and recovery of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation and agreements to ensure the survival of these highly migratory animals. We have a broad national and international program and work closely with 2 international environmental agreements that deal exclusively with sea turtle conservation:

The goal of the international component of the sea turtle program is to facilitate the global conservation and recovery of sea turtles by working closely with other nations through diplomatic channels, capacity building, and scientific exchange. Our Regional Office staff and Science Center staff are also involved in international activities related to sea turtle research and management.

More Information

Additional Resources for Turtle Conservation

Updated: May 24, 2017