Protecting Sea Turtles: Coast to Coast

Of the seven species of sea turtle on the planet, six are found in U. S. waters, and all six species are endangered or threatened.

When it comes to species like sea turtles, conservation isn’t just the job of any one agency or organization. It takes everyone — biologists, volunteers, and communities — working together to ensure a future for these spectacular species.

Freshly hatched pair of green sea turtles / honu (Chelonia mydas) make their way to the ocean. Photo credit: Mark Sullivan, NOAA
While agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service work with our communities and partners to protect sea turtles on land (when they are basking or nesting) — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has the primary job of protecting sea turtles at sea! Photo credit: Koa Matsuoka NOAA

We are taking you across the country to meet just a few of the people and agencies that have a hand in conserving and protecting these incredible species for future generations of people.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge — Florida

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is part of the largest span of undeveloped stretch of coastline in Florida.

Green sea turtle with launch pad in the background. Photo Credit: USFWS

The refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the Space Program. In 1962, NASA acquired land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. After the launch complex was built, development of most of the area was not necessary.

Today, the Department of Interior manages most of the unused portions of the Kennedy Space Center as Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore.

Open vistas at Canaveral National Seashore. Photo Credit: NPS

All that space allows for thousands of loggerheads, greens, and leatherback sea turtles to nest and hatch every year.

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Padre Island National Seashore — Texas

Thereʻs something for everyone at Padre Island National Seashore.

Public sea turtle release at Padre Island National Seashore. Photo credit: NPS

Padre Island National Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The National Seashore and surrounding waters provide important habitat for marine and terrestrial plants and animals, including a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species. It is also the only location in Texas where nests from five species of sea turtle have been found.

Left to Right: Hawksbill sea turtle, Green sea turtle, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.
Left: Green sea turtle. Photo credit James Watt/NOAA; Right: Hawksbill sea turtle. Photo credit C. King/USFWS
Green sea turtles bask on French Frigate Shoals. Andy Collins/NOAA, 2012

There are three species of sea turtles (or honu, as they are called in Hawaiian) native to the Hawaiian Islands: the Green, the Hawksbill, and the Leatherback. Although Hawaiian Green sea turtles can been seen basking on beaches across the Hawaiian islands, 90% of them nest on a remote spec of land called French Frigate Shoals in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

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Inspiring Sea Turtle Stories

Sometimes biologists have to step in and provide a helping hand when working with endangered species.

Read about the only Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery in the entire National Park system.

Park biologists work with Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Photo Credit: NPS

Read about how biologists solved the mystery of the Kemp’s Ridley and discovered new mysteries to solve…

Baby Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Photo Credit: NPS

Learn about protecting critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles nests on Maui…

Or read about the efforts to rehabilitate stranded sea turtles off the coast of Oregon.

Volunteers and Communities Get the Job Done!

Every year thousands of ordinary people spend their time and energy volunteering to watch over and protect sea turtle nests during hatching season. Ordinary people watch for and report stranded turtles. And communities work together to take steps that help protect endangered species. Together, we can secure a future for sea turtles.

Volunteers look on as rescued hawksbill hatchlings are released after a nest excavation by project co-coordinator Luke Sundquist, photo by Aimee Lemieux/Hawaii Wildlife Fund

We’re dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats.