Sea Turtles of Maryland
To report a sea turtle sighting, stranding or death
please call our hotline: 1-800-628-9944
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 breath every few minutes. When they are resting, they can remain underwater for as long as two 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 the breeding populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and breeding populations of olive 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 NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For more information please contact:
Sea Turtle Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310
Jacksonville, FL 3216
Protection of Sea Turtles
Through interagency coordination under section seven of the ESA, sea turtles are protected by ensuring that federal actions will not jeopardize the continued existence of the species. Successful consultations have been conducted with the Minerals Management Service for oil and gas activities, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for dredging activities, the U.S. Navy for explosives testing, the Environmental Protection Agency for the designation of dredged material disposal sites, and many other Federal agencies for activities ranging from nuclear power plant construction to scientific research.
One of the most important ways NMFS acts to protect sea turtles is through requiring trawl fisherman to use Turtle Excluder Devices while fishing. The Turtle Excluder Device or TED is a grid of bars with an opening either at the top or the bottom. The grid is fitted into the neck of a shrimp trawl. Small animals like shrimp slip through the bars and are caught in the bag at the end of the trawl. Large animals such as turtles and sharks, when caught at the mouth of the trawl, strike the grid bars and are ejected through the opening.
NMFS has been able to show that TEDs are effective at excluding up to 97% of sea turtles with minimal loss of shrimp. This has enabled NMFS to avoid implementing more restrictive regulations on the shrimp industry.
The National Marine Fisheries Service works daily to balance the nations need for seafood resources and the mandate to recover protected marine species such as sea turtles. The TED-use requirements allow shrimpers to continue fishing in public trust waters and simultaneously to protect sea turtles. This is an example of balancing commercial needs with the biological need of protected resources.
The development and implementation of the consideration to industry concerns and included in their participation in developing the final regulations. Industry representatives also participate in review of new designs for TEDs, some of which are submitted by the shrimpers themselves. NMFS ensured that the TED requirements where phased in gradually, and has provided numerous workshops and programs to work with the industry regarding TEDs.
With respect to foreign shrimp fisheries, NMFS and the State Department have been working closely with Mexico and other shrimp supplying nations in Latin America to help them develop comparable TED programs. These programs are now in place in about a dozen countries in the wider Caribbean area. In addition, NMFS and the State Department are negotiating an International Sea Turtle Convention to further promote TED programs in other countries.
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