The Green Turtle

By: Bryia Huskey

Background Information

The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) are the largest of all the hard-shelled tea turtles, but have a comparatively small head. The Green Turtles only feast off of plants, and their basic diet consists of sea grasses and algae.


Their habitat is primarily at the beaches for nesting, open ocean convergence zones, and coastal areas for benthic feeding. The lifespan is unknown, but sexual maturity occurs anywhere between 20 - 50 years.

Why is this type of species endangered?

  • The principal cause of the historical, worldwide decline of the green turtle is long-term harvest of eggs and adults on nesting beaches and juveniles and adults on feeding grounds. These harvests continue in some areas of the world and compromise efforts to recover this species.
  • Incidental capture in fishing gear, primarily in gillnets, but also in trawls, traps and pots, longlines, and dredges is a serious ongoing source of mortality that also adversely affects the species' recovery.
  • Green turtles are also threatened, in some areas of the world, by a disease known as fibropapillomatosis (FP).

What's being done to save The Green Turtles?

NOAA Fisheries have worked closely with the shrimp trawl fishing industry to develop turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce the mortality of sea turtles incidentally captured in shrimp trawl gear.


And there's also involved in cooperative gear research projects designed to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic pelagic longline fisheries, the Hawaii-based deep set longline fishery, the Atlantic sea scallop dredge fishery, the Chesapeake Bay pound net fishery, and non-shrimp trawl fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf.


In the U.S., NOAA Fisheries(NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have joint jurisdiction for leatherback turtles, with NOAA having the lead in the marine environment and USFWS having the lead on the nesting beaches. Both federal agencies, along with many state agencies and international partners, have issued regulations to eliminate or reduce threats to sea turtles, while working together to recover them.


In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, we have required measures to reduce sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline, mid-Atlantic gillnet, Chesapeake Bay pound net, and southeast shrimp and flounder trawl fisheries, such as

  • gear modifications
  • changes to fishing practices
  • time/ area closures

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