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Sea Turtle Conservation Program

Sea Turtles in Need

description of different species of sea turtles

Sea turtles are an important keystone species that play critical roles in maintaining species diversity and the health of our oceans. There are seven species of sea turtles. The flatback lives only in Australia. The rest — the green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley — are found in many places, including U.S. waters. Sea turtle populations are being negatively impacted by many human-related factors. Ingestion of or entanglement in plastic pollution is a significant threat, and entanglement from fishery longlines, gill nets, trawls and discarded personal-use fishing gear are also key issues affecting sea turtles. Nesting areas are being greatly impacted by habitat degradation arising from coastal development and increasingly extreme weather events, and imbalanced hatchling sex ratios are now frequently documented due to changes in beach temperatures. As a result, sea turtles are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are greatly in need of our help!

 

Photo Credit: The State of the Worlds Sea Turtles

Look at them Go!

We are tracking several of our rehabilitated sea turtles after their triumphant return to the open ocean. Equipped with satellite tracking tags, these turtles are providing critical information about diving, feeding, migratory and activity patterns which may provide key insight for future rehabilitation and conservation efforts.

Follow the Turtles

Our Approach

  • Serves as a leader in sea turtle rehabilitation
  • Focuses on reduction of plastics reaching our waterways
  • Manages a Responsible Pier Initiative
  • Provides outcome-drive conservation and engagement platforms

  • Serves as a center of excellence in animal care & welfare
  • Utilizes state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment technology
  • Provide pre-release deep-dive foraging-readiness testing

  • Meets rehabilitation capacity needs for stranded sea turtles
  • Maximizes the sea turtle intake/release ratio
  • Utilizes satellite telemetry to track movements and behavior patterns of released sea turtles

Some of Our Accomplishments

Since 1999, The Florida Aquarium has led extensive sea turtle rehabilitation efforts and visitor and community education & conservation platforms to advance sea turtle protection. Over a 20-year period, the Aquarium received 200 sea turtles, and while not all could be deemed releasable due to the nature of their injuries or illnesses, 180 were successfully released!  In 2019, we opened our state-of-the-art Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center at our conservation campus in Apollo Beach, Florida. In the first year, The Florida Aquarium Animal Response Team managed the care of 21 sea turtles, initiated new foraging-readiness testing for release candidates in our deep-dive tank, and released 14 animals! In 2020, we also initiated a study to better understand how micro-plastics are impacting the sea turtles in our care. These advancements facilitate our capability and capacity to respond to increasing sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation needs, conduct vital health research to improve sea turtle care and husbandry techniques and scale up the number of sea turtles returned to their natural habitat.

Other Success Stories:

  • Treated 221 sick or injured sea turtles.

  • Successfully released 180 rehabilitated sea turtles.

  • Opened state-of-the-art Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in 2019.

  • Constructed the first deep-dive foraging tank to assess release-readiness.

  • Conducting a microplastics study with sea turtle patients.

  • Prioritized focus on reducing the consumption of single-use plastics.

Proud Partners & Sponsors

The Florida Aquarium uses a comprehensive conservation approach that amplifies our expertise, leverages partnerships and maximizes our ability to successfully protect sea turtles and restore their populations. This work cannot be done alone and we are proud to partner and to receive sponsorships from the following agencies and organizations!

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Loggerhead Marinelife Center Logo
Florida Fish and Wildlife logo
LogosNOAA
Tampa General Hospital
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TECO_logo_square
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All sea turtle rehabilitation work conducted by The Florida Aquarium is done with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to marine turtles and authorized under conservation activities pursuant to FWC MTP-21-179.