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Endangered Green Sea Turtle Found in Kiddie Pool

Reminder: Look, don’t touch, endangered sea turtles!

If you see a sea turtle you think needs help, please call the Greater Atlantic Region Marine Animal Hotline: 866-755-6622 or contact your state coordinators. Please report any violations to the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.

Earlier this month, a young green sea turtle was found by local police in a residential back yard. The sea turtle was in a kiddie pool filled with city water, and was eventually transferred to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey. The sea turtle appeared to be suffering from pneumonia, and died a few days later. An investigation is currently underway into the circumstances surrounding this case.

Protected Under Federal Law

Green sea turtles are classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, capture, or collect sea turtle eggs, hatchlings, adults, or any parts. Violators can face criminal penalties of up to $50,000 in fines and a year in jail, and/or civil fines of up to $25,000.

Bringing a sea turtle home is not only illegal, it is unsafe both for you and the turtle. Sea turtles have sharp beaks and extremely strong jaws, as well as can carry salmonella bacteria. Sea turtles require expert care and, in the case of injury or illness, specialized treatment.

About Green Sea Turtles

Green sea turtles are the largest of all the hard-shelled sea turtles, but have comparatively small heads. They get their name from their greenish-colored fat (not the color of their shell), which is thought to be linked to their plant-based diet.  Green sea turtles live in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, and inhabit the coasts of more than 140 countries.

On the U.S. East Coast, green sea turtles usually nest between June and September on southeastern beaches from Florida up to North Carolina. Green sea turtles, primarily juveniles, forage on seagrasses and other plant life as far north as Massachusetts in the summer.

Successful Conservation Efforts May Be Paying Off

NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which are jointly charged with green sea turtles recovery, have proposed to reclassify the green sea turtle under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and list turtles originating from two breeding populations currently considered endangered as threatened.

After a review of the global status of green sea turtles, the agencies are proposing to reclassify the species into 11 Distinct Population Segments (DPS) under the ESA, which maintains federal protections while providing a more tailored approach for managers to address specific threats facing different populations. Years of coordinated conservation efforts have resulted in increasing numbers of turtles nesting in Florida and along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. As a result, the agencies are proposing threatened rather than endangered status for the two DPS that encompass those breeding populations.

More information about the 11 DPS and the proposed status of each population can be found online.