By NOAA. Sea turtles are a key part of marine ecosystems worldwide, but they face many threats today. NOAA works to protect and conserve six sea turtle species found in U.S. waters. All are threatened or endangered.
Sea Turtle Week is June 13–17, 2022! Join us in celebrating these marine reptiles and our work to conserve them. Swimming in Earth’s oceans for hundreds of millions of years, sea turtles lead incredible lives and survive for many decades at sea. They can travel thousands of miles in search of food, eventually returning to the beaches where they were born to nest.
Sea turtles are a key part of marine ecosystems worldwide, but they face many threats today. Six sea turtle species are found in U.S. waters and all are threatened or endangered. The largest among them—the Pacific leatherback—is one of NOAA Fisheries’ Species in the Spotlight. This initiative is a concerted, agency-wide effort launched in 2015 to spotlight and save the most highly at-risk marine species.
Seven Sea Turtle Facts
1. In many parts of the world, hawksbills are threatened by hunting for their beautiful shell.
Also known as “tortoise shell,” it is used by craftspeople to create many types of jewelry and trinkets. The historical hunting and killing of hawksbills for their shell nearly drove the species to extinction. Today, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species forbids the trade of any turtle products on the international market, including hawksbill tortoise shell. Illegal hunting and trade continue to threaten the species in many parts of the world.
2. Leatherbacks are the only species of sea turtle that don’t have a hard shell.
Their shell (carapace) consists of small, interlocking bones beneath the skin that overlie a supportive layer of connective tissue and fat and the deeper skeleton. The carapace has seven distinct keels and the front flippers are proportionally longer than other sea turtles and their back flippers are paddle-shaped. Both their streamlined carapace and their large flippers make the leatherback uniquely equipped for long distance foraging migrations. Some swim more than 10,000 miles a year between nesting and foraging grounds.