SEA TURTLE

Chelonioidea

Our Sea Turtles Are In Jeopardy!

All along the coast of North Carolina, sea turtles make their nests. There are three kinds of sea turtles that nest on North Carolina beaches - the Green Turtle (threatened), the Leatherback Turtle (endangered), and the Loggerhead Turtle (threatened).


There are five major threats to sea turtles. Fisheries can entangle turtles, destroy their habitat, and cause food web changes. Direct Take is where humans kill turtles and their eggs for food or products which include oil, leather, and shell. Humans also destroy nests by accident. Coastal Development can cause shoreline and seafloor changes as well as increase foot and water traffic. Pollution such as plastics and fishing gear can cause entanglement deaths and chemical pollution can cause weakened immune systems. Lastly, Climate Change causes more frequent extreme weather resulting in a loss of nesting beaches and changes to sea turtle habitat.

You Can Help Save Our Sea Turtles!

The North Carolina Sea Turtle Protection Program and many local volunteers monitor nesting activity. National, state, and local laws, as well as international agreements, have been enacted to eliminate the import, sale, and transport of sea turtles and to protect their habitat but we still need your help. Here is what YOU CAN DO:

  • Minimize beachfront lighting including flashlights on the beach at night and flash photography
  • Remove recreational items from beach daily
  • Do not light beach fires
  • Remove all trash
  • Stay off dunes and do not trample vegetation
  • Leave turtle tracks undisturbed
  • Leave nest markers alone
  • Report an unmarked nest, dead, or hurt sea turtle
  • Stay in channels when boating and avoid seagrass.

Good News!

2015 was a good year for turtles in North Carolina. We had a total of 1296 documented nests of mostly Loggerheads but we also had some Greens, one Kemp's Ridley, and our FIRST EVER Hawksbill nests. Hawksbill Turtles are endangered and though they have been seen off our coast, they rarely if ever nest north of Florida. Cape Hatteras National seashore was host to two Hawksbill nests by the same female (DNA tests confirmed). Unfortunately, one of the nests was destroyed by a storm but the other hatched 63 hatchlings. Let's hope 2016 brings more of the same!

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