Sea turtles are graceful saltwater reptiles, well adapted to life in their marine world. With streamlined bodies and flipper-like limbs, they are able to swim long distances in a relatively short time.
When they are active, sea turtles must swim to the ocean surface to breathe every few minutes. When they are resting, they can remain underwater for as long as 2 hours without breathing.
Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females must return to land in order to lay their eggs. Scientists believe that nesting female turtles return to the same beach on which they were born. Often sea turtles must travel long distances from their feeding grounds to their nesting beaches. Just how sea turtles find their nesting beaches is unknown.
All six species of sea turtles in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). These are the green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtles. The hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, and leatherback sea turtles are listed as endangered under the ESA. The loggerhead, green and olive ridley sea turtles are listed as threatened, except for breeding populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and breeding populations of live ridley sea turtles on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered.
Because sea turtles nest on land, jurisdiction over them is shared between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For information about USFWS sea turtle programs, write to:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sea Turtle Coordinator
500 Gold Avenue, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103
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