June 9, 2023

Sea Turtle Day/Week – a celebration of conservation

Posted by Laura Guertin

text across the top, why should sharks have all the funAlthough not an official celebration observed by the United Nations, World Sea Turtle Day and Sea Turtle Week are globally recognized and well-established. Starting on World Oceans Day (June 8) and extending through World Sea Turtle Day (June 16), there is a “Sea Turtle Week” of activities and media campaigns to raise awareness and promote conservation efforts of the seven species of sea turtles in the world. Six of the seven sea turtle species can be found in waters surrounding the United States, and all six are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (NOAA article on 50th anniversary of the ESA).

Sea Turtle Week is hosted by SEE Turtles and funded by the National Save the Sea Turtles Foundation. There is an extensive list of official organizational partners on the Sea Turtle Week website, as well as content and videos that can be used for educational purposes. There is certainly information available beyond the Sea Turtle Week website, such as the entire collection of TEDx Talks on sea turtles!

Image of the seven sea turtle species comparing their sizes

The smallest sea turtles are about the size of dinner plates, while the largest, the leatherbacks, can reach sizes similar to a golf cart. Archelon, a giant sea turtle that lived roughly 80 to 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, grew to sizes roughly 13 feet in length. (Smithsonian Institution – Sea Turtles)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been calling attention to Sea Turtle Week since 2018. NOAA Fisheries has a dedicated site with Sea Turtle information, including a breakdown by species and fun facts. And one can always search the NOAA Fisheries News & Announcements page for articles on sea turtles published year-round.

I appreciate how NOAA highlights a new collection of articles and videos for each annual celebration of Sea Turtle Week. I can guarantee students and adults will have fun exploring:

Although awareness and conservation of sea turtles needs to happen year-round, it is helpful to have this reminder to explore the latest discoveries, success stories, and unfortunately the continuing threats to sea turtles that need to be addressed. In going through the resources on these past Sea Turtle Weeks, I started diving deeper into the fascinating information on turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for fishing gear. There are two podcasts that discuss this topic even more: Exploring Solutions for Sea Turtle Bycatch and Reducing Bycatch Through Innovation.

As I write this blog post, I’m in Kodiak, Alaska, waiting to join a NOAA ship. I was quite surprised to find an article on Sea Turtles in Alaska? Yes, We Have Them In the Far North! Although I am very unlikely to see a sea turtle in the Gulf of Alaska, four different species of sea turtles have been spotted in this region.

map of Alaska and the four species have been reported to NOAA Fisheries between 1963 and 2020

In 1963, NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center began collecting reports of sea turtle sightings. The NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office has continued these efforts, maintaining a record of free-swimming, dead, or entangled sea turtles across the coastal areas of the Gulf of Alaska. Forty-eight sea turtle sightings were recorded in Alaska between 1963 and 2020.

Again, these NOAA resources are just a recommended start to expand your sea turtle knowledge and how you can assist with sea turtle conservation. I encourage you to explore additional resources, such as the ArcGIS StoryMap collection by National Geographic Explorer Dr. Vanessa Bézy, titled Sea Turtle Science Series. Finally, remember that a great way to protect sea turtles is to share knowledge.