Sea turtles are important keystone species that play critical roles in maintaining species diversity and the health of our oceans. There are seven species of sea turtles, one, the flatback, lives only in Australia and the rest including the green, hawksbill, kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley, are found many places including U.S. waters. Sea turtle populations are being negatively impacted by many human-related factors. Ingestion of or entanglementin 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
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, 166 were successfully released! In 2019, we opened our state-of-the-art Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center at our Center for Conservation campus in Apollo Beach, Florida. In the first year alone, 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:
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 with the following agencies and organizations!
Sea Turtle Stranding Network
Phone: (813) 273-4000