FPL | Sea Turtle Overview
 

Sea Turtles

 

Florida is home to thousands of sea turtles

Of the seven species of sea turtles worldwide, five can be found nesting in Florida: loggerhead, green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley and leatherback.

Females nest on sandy beaches

Female sea turtles can travel hundreds or thousands of miles to nest. They lay their eggs on sandy beaches and will usually make several nests during one season. They may nest every two to three years. Nesting is a difficult process that can take up to three hours. A turtle must drag her great weight ashore, dig a nest with her back flippers, deposit about one hundred eggs, and cover and conceal the nest before returning to the sea. The eggs incubate in the warm sand and the female never visits her nest again.

Hatchlings fend for themselves

After incubating for about two months, the two-inch-long turtles hatch, erupt as a group from their nest in the cool of the night, and scurry down the beach to the sea. Many hatchlings swim offshore to live for several years in floating seaweed drifting along the edges of ocean currents. Eventually, the young turtles take up residence in coastal waters.

How can you help?

  • Never approach or harass sea turtles that are nesting or emerging from the sea
  • Do not disturb or remove eggs from sea turtle nests
  • Be careful while boating to avoid collisions with turtles
  • Never throw trash in the water or on the beach
  • Learn how to keep sea turtles in the dark
  • If you find an injured or dead turtle in Florida, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-FWCC or (888) 404-3922
  • Purchase a "Helping Sea Turtles Survive" Florida license plate*

*Proceeds generated by sales of the turtle plate go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Marine Turtle Protection Program to support research and management activities related to Florida's sea turtles. In addition, a portion of the revenue is distributed to Sea Turtle Conservancy, which then redistributes the funding through the competitive Sea Turtle Grant Program to support turtle projects in the areas of research, education and conservation that benefit Florida sea turtles.

Resources

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If your organization is interested in sharing this information, you can request printed copies of our sea turtle brochures. Visit our brochure order page to submit your request.

 

 

Loggerhead

  • The loggerhead turtle is the most common nesting turtle in Florida, but it is still considered a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  • The loggerhead has powerful jaws to crush the clams, crabs and other hard-shelled invertebrate animals on which it feeds.
  • Tens of thousands of loggerhead nests are recorded in Florida annually.

Leatherback

  • The endangered leatherback turtle is the largest and most active of the sea turtles.
  • Up to eight feet in length, these huge turtles have a rubbery, dark shell marked by seven narrow ridges that extend the length of the back.
  • Leatherbacks feed on jellyfish and soft-bodied animals that would appear to provide very little nutrition for such huge animals.
  • Between 700 to more than 1,700 leatherback nests are recorded in Florida each year.

Green

  • The green turtle, named for the greenish color of its body fat, is listed as endangered in Florida. Roughly 4,500 to 15,000 nests are recorded in Florida each year.
  • Green turtles have been hunted for centuries for their meat and gelatinous "calipee" that is made into soup.
  • Green turtles are the only sea turtles that eat plants. They graze on the vast beds of seagrasses found throughout the tropics.

Kemp's Ridley

  • The rarest and smallest of all the sea turtles, the endangered Kemp's ridley feeds on crabs and shrimp in the coastal waters off of Florida.
  • Most Kemp's ridleys nest on a single stretch of beach on the east coast of Mexico.
  • The Kemp's ridley is only one of two species of sea turtles that nest in arribadas, a term used to describe large groups of females gathering and nesting all at the same time.

Hawksbill

  • A relatively small turtle, the endangered hawksbill has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its beautiful shell.
  • Once relatively common in Florida, these turtles now nest here rarely.
  • Hawksbills feed on sponges and other invertebrates and tend to nest on small isolated beaches.