VIMS

Stranded Sea Turtle?

  • Loggerhead sea turtle
    Loggerhead sea turtle  Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are the most common sea turtle in Chesapeake Bay. Loggerheads are listed as “threatened” in U.S. waters. Mainly juveniles are found here, foraging on blue crab, horseshoe crab, whelk, fish and sea grasses.  Photo courtesy Dennis Liberson.
  • Kemp's Ridley sea turtles
    Kemp's Ridley sea turtles  Kemp’s ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii) are the second most common sea turtle in Chesapeake Bay. Those found in the Bay are typically juveniles feeding on crabs, mollusks, and other crustaceans. Kemp’s ridleys are the smallest and rarest of all sea turtles and are listed as “endangered” throughout their range. Here, two juvenile Kemp's Ridley rush toward the water after being tagged and released as part of VIMS' Sea Turtle Program. Small tags on the turtles will allow VIMS researchers to track their whereabouts.  David Malmquist
  • Researchers track sea turtles
    Researchers track sea turtles  Researchers from the VIMS Sea Turtle Stranding Program release two rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtles into Chesapeake Bay. They will track the pair using satellite tags glued to their shells.  
  • Hawksbill sea turtle
    Hawksbill sea turtle  Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretomochelys imbricate) are listed as “endangered” and are extremely rare in Chesapeake Bay. Only two have been reported since 1979, and these are considered “strays.” Hawksbills are more typically found in tropical and subtropical waters feeding on sponges, corals, and fish.  Photo by Dennis Liberson.
  • Green sea turtle
    Green sea turtle  Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are endangered in US waters. Juvenile turtles are seen in Chesapeake Bay during the late summer and early fall. Adult green sea turtles feed on sea grasses and algae while juveniles are omnivorous, feeding on both aquatic plants and animals.  Photo by Dean Grubbs.
  • Diamondback terrapin
    Diamondback terrapin  Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) inhabit the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay's tributaries and tidal marshes. They are not sea turtles, but like sea turtles their populations are in trouble due to habitat loss and overharvesting. Photographed on the seaside of a barrier island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  Photo by Kevin R. Du Bois.
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I've found a stranded sea turtle. What should I do?

If you see a live, entangled, or injured sea turtle, please note the exact location. Call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program at 757-385-7575.  After the beep, give a detailed description of the turtle's location, condition, your name, and a phone number where you can be reached.

If on the water, note your GPS position and stay with the animal, if possible, to help stranding staff locate it. Do not attempt to rescue the animal yourself. If you are out of cell phone range, radio the US Coast Guard via VHF Channel 16. They can then contact the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Center at 757-385-7575.

If you find a dead, stranded sea turtle, do not touch it. Note the exact location and call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program  at 757-385-7575 to report your find.

All of the sea turtles found in the Chesapeake Bay are either endangered or threatened species, thereby under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. When viewing sea turtles, you must stay at least 50 yards (150 ft) away.

(Some of this information is adapted from NOAA's Northeast Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Protection Guidelines for Recreational Boaters & Fishermen.)

I've hooked a sea turtle while fishing. What should I do?

If you should happen to catch a sea turtle while fishing, you should immediately unhook and release it. If the turtle is deeply hooked, it should be taken to the nearest veterinary hospital for hook removal.