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Sea Turtles

All sea turtles that occur in U.S. waters are listed as threatened (T) or endangered (E) under the Endangered Species ActIn the Pacific, leatherback and hawksbills are listed as endangered, and loggerheads, greens and olive ridleys are listed as threatened, except for breeding colony populations of greens and olive ridleys on the coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered. Sea turtles are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. For more information, visit the NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources website at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species.

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) (T)

Found in tropical seas and, to a lesser extent, subtropical waters worldwide. Highly migratory, but faithful to natal beaches for nesting. In Hawaii Archipelago, over 90% nesting at French Frigate Shoals (FFS) with estimated 200-700 females nesting annually. Nesting females at East Island, FFS, tripled since 1973. Low level nesting (less than 20 females annually) known or likely at Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, and Pearl and Hermes Reef. Important resident areas on coastlines of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, Hawaii, Lisianski Island, and Pearl and Hermes Reef. Inter-nesting habitat for both sexes at FFS. Foraging range of FFS greens extends to Johnston Atoll. Major nesting site for American Samoa Archipelago at Rose Atoll (25-35 nesting females annually). Minor sites (less than 25 females nesting annually) at Tutuila and the Manu’a Group. Nesting greens from American Samoa found foraging in Fiji and French Polynesia waters. In Mariana Archipelago, regular, low-level nesting on Guam, and low-level (less than 10 females annually) on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. 783 sightings of greens recorded for Guam 1975-1979. In U.S. Pacific Remote Island Ares, low density nesting recorded at Jarvis Island and Palmyra Atoll. Aggregation of resident greens at Wake Island and Palmyra Atoll. Few recent sightings round Howland, Baker, Jarvis and Kingman Reef. For more information on Green Turtle, click here.

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Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) (E)

Found worldwide in tropical waters, generally 30 deg N to 30 deg S. Within Central Pacific Pacific, nesting widely distributed but scattered and in very low numbers. Highly migratory, with foraging reported throughout Pacific. In Hawaii Archipelago, nesting on main island beaches, primarily east coast of island of Hawaii. Kamehame Point on Hawaii and black sand beach at river mouth of Halawa Valley, Molokai, most consistently used beaches. 18 hawksbills tagged and 98 nests documented during 1989-1993 surveys. In 20-year period, only 8 hawksbills encountered at nearshore sites, in waters off islands of Hawaii, Molokai and Oahu. A few strandings of immature hawksbills throughout the island chain. In American Samoa Archipelago, estimated 50 nesting females annually on Tutuila and 30 on the Manu’a Group of Ofu, Olosega and Ta’u. In waters around Tutuila, 29 hawksbills observed. In Mariana Archipelago, hawksbills rare with only one nest recorded in 1991 on Guam, and no nests reported in Northern Mariana Islands. Small population of foraging hawksbills found in Guam waters. No information available on at-sea populations in Northern Mariana Islands. In U.S. Pacific Remote Island Ares, no nests or foraging hawksbills recorded.

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Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) E

Most widely distributed of all sea turtles. Found worldwide, primarily in open waters, with largest north and south range of all sea turtles. Populations in Pacific in severe decline. Highly migratory. No known nesting beaches in Hawaii, American Samoa and Mariana Archipelagos or in the Pacific Remote Island Areas. In Hawaii, leatherbacks regularly sighted in offshore waters at southeastern end of archipelago. In 1979, at least 10, including juveniles, sighted northwest of Hawaii. In American Samoa Archipelago, only recorded leatherback was one caught by longline south of Swains Island. In Mariana Archipelago, 1989-1991 aerial survey recorded 2.6% of turtles sighted as leatherbacks. Occasionally found in pelagic water of Northern Mariana Islands. No documented sightings in U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas.

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Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) (T/E)

Found in all temperate and tropical waters worldwide. Major nesting grounds generally located in warm temperate and subtropical regions, with some scattered nesting in tropics. In Hawaii, no nesting recorded but 4 records of juvenile loggerheads (2 from southeast portion of archipelago; one offshore Waikiki, Oahu; and one recovered from stomach of tiger shark from Kure). In American Samoa, Hawaii or Mariana Archipelagos and U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas, no records of nesting nor of any insular or pelagic sightings.

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Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) (T)

Most abundant sea turtle, found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate oceans. Most common and widespread sea turtle in eastern Pacific. Increasingly uncommon further offshore, and rare in insular and pelagic waters of central Pacific. In Hawaii Archipelago, one nesting recorded on island of Maui in 1985. Sightings rare but increasing. In American Samoa and Mariana Archipelagos and U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas, no nesting or sightings recorded.

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