Sea Turtle Background

Sea turtles are marine reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers that are well-adapted to life in the ocean. Six species are found in U.S. waters, all of which are listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act. Learn more about NOAA's efforts to protect sea turtles and how national marine sanctuaries benefit these populations.

Three sea turtles on a barren reef with one turtle being cleaned by several bright yellow and black striped fish.

A Day at the Turtle Spa

Over time, sea turtles and other marine animals accumulate algae and small parasites. But without hands to pick them off, what’s a sea turtle to do? Call in the fish! In Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) – or honu – regularly visit “turtle cleaning stations.”

A male loggerhead sea turtle with brown and green markings with an older tracking tag on its shell.

Sea Turtles in Gray’s Reef

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is an important habitat for sea turtles year round. The ledges and overhangs of the reef provide sea turtles with places to rest and forage for food.

A loggerhead sea turtle in the Florida Keys on a reef and seagrass.

Five species of endangered sea turtles are found throughout the marine waters of the Florida Keys

Sea turtles have roamed Earth's ocean for millions of years, with the first sea turtles appearing on Earth 150 million years ago. The ancestors of the turtles we see today entered the ocean 60 million years ago.

A sea turtle diving in a shipwreck with three scuba divers swimming with a school of fish towards it.

Sea Turtles

In the United States, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shared jurisdiction for recovery and conservation of threatened and endangered sea turtles.

A sea turtle swimming just below the surface in dark turquoise waters.

Fun Facts About Terrific Sea Turtles

All six species of turtles in U.S. waters are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Here you can find out more about them and why their numbers have been declining.

An immature green sea turtle swims above a coral reef at Baker Island in the Pacific Island Remote Area.

Sea Turtle Week 2022: Celebrating Sea Turtle Conservation

Let's dive into Sea Turtle Week! This week-long celebration of sea turtle conservation is centered around World Sea Turtle Day on June 16.

Stranded juvenile green sea turtle found cold stunned on a sandy beach.

Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network

Members of the network work together to inform the causes of sea turtle strandings by collecting data, documenting wounds and abnormalities, transporting sick and injured sea turtles to permitted rehabilitation facilities, and helping to educate the public about sea turtle conservation.