Sea Turtles Marine Life



Lessons and Activities

Real World Data

Background Information

Career Profiles

Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers. They are well adapted to life in the ocean and inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters around the world. Of the seven species of sea turtles, six are found in U.S. waters. These include the green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley. Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females have to return to beaches to lay their eggs. They often migrate long distances between feeding areas and nesting beaches.

sea turtle
Loggerhead Turtle escaping a net equipped with turtle excluder device (TED)
(Photo Credit: NOAA)

The six species of sea turtles in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) administer the Endangered Species Act with respect to marine turtles.  NOAA Fisheries has the lead for the conservation and recovery of sea turtles when turtles are at sea.  The USFWS has the lead when sea turtles are on nesting beaches.

Major threats to sea turtles in the U.S. include, but are not limited to: damage and changes to turtle’s nesting and foraging habitats; accidental capture by fishermen: getting tangled in marine debris; and being hit by boats and ships.  To decrease the capture of sea turtles in commercial fishing, use of certain kinds of fishing gear (gill nets, long-lines, pound nets, and trawls) that are known to catch large numbers of sea turtles are restricted. NOAA Fisheries and the USFWS have developed plans to guide research and management efforts for each sea turtle species to improve their health and long-term survival outlook.

The conservation and recovery of sea turtles requires cooperation and agreements to make sure these migratory animals survive. NOAA Fisheries partners with other agencies and groups, and has a national and international programs to help conservation and recovery efforts of sea turtles.

Education Connection
The education resources in this collection provide educators and students opportunities to explore the biology and adaptations of sea turtles, their position in marine food webs, the human and natural threats to their survival, and the conservation efforts being used to protect them.  In addition, resources are provided that allow students ways to become involved in improving the sea turtles’ outlook. Activities include habitat restoration, turtle interaction etiquette, and tracking sea turtles through real-time radio telemetry data from the ocean.

Adapted from materials provided by NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources.

Page last updated: May 2015

A Breakthrough in Sea Turtle Research
The Keratin Connection: A Breakthrough in Sea Turtle Research

Jeanette also has fabulous painted toenails with little waves on them, and so Jeanette called her manicurist and it was her manicurist that suggested that we try an acrylic fill kit, on the turtle shell to help seal the keratin and prevent it from peeling... Read More

Sea Turtle Skeletons Hold Clues for Conservation
Sea Turtle Skeletons Hold Clues for Conservation

The bones of sea turtles have annual rings like those found in trees, and chemical markers within them give scientists a detailed view of the animal's life history... Read More

Sea turtle poacher sentenced in felony case
Sea turtle poacher sentenced in felony case using NOAA forensic analysis

Kathy’s morphological analysis confirmed that the carapaces were hawksbill turtle, and her DNA analysis revealed that the meat was from at least two hawksbills and one green turtle... Read More