Sea Turtle Conservation
All sea turtles are endangered or threatened. Many factors have contributed to their population decline including development on nesting beaches, plastics in the ocean and over hunting. Five of seven sea turtle species live in North Carolina waters, including the loggerhead, the green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and leatherback.
The Aquariums are committed to sea turtle education and taking action to care for sick or stranded sea turtles. The Aquariums work with sea turtle stranding networks, nesting beach patrols and other Aquariums and sea turtle rehabilitation facilities to aid these animals.
Rescue. Care. Release.
Recent sea turtle news at the NC Aquariums
NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores: It's wintertime in North Carolina and with it comes cold waters and cold-stunned sea turtles. As of December 1, 2021, the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is caring for 12 cold-stunned sea turtles from New England! All 12 are juvenile Kemp's ridley and were found in Cape Cod waters when temperatures dropped. Animal care staff here will rehabilitate them until they are healthy enough to be released into warmer waters. Other sea turtle rehabilitation sites in North Carolina are also helping care for cold-stunned sea turtles.
| Release February 2018 | Release June 2018 | Release January 2020 | Post May 2020 | Post December 2021 |
NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher: A 120-pound loggerhead sea turtle was released at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, May 23, 2018. The loggerhead was found cold-stunned in the Outer Banks in December 2017. It received initial treatment for anemia, lethargy, and malnourishment at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island in Manteo. In January, the animal was moved to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher for long-term care and to make room for critically-ill sea turtles at the STAR Center. In addition, two loggerhead sea turtles were released to the Atlantic Ocean in October 2017. The turtles received care from the Aquarium at Fort Fisher team for more than a year.
| Release May 2018 | Release October 2017 |
NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island: It’s good to be home. Onlookers cheered as six sea turtles rehabilitated at the STAR Center were released back to the ocean on May 4, 2019. Staff from the Aquarium worked alongside volunteers from the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) and the National Park Service (NPS) to ensure a successful release.
Five of the turtles released were brought to the STAR Center this past winter due to cold-stunning, a hypothermia-like condition that occurs when water temperatures drop rapidly. The sixth, a loggerhead, sustained injuries from an entanglement. All recovered and were cleared for release by the NC Aquariums veterinary staff.
| STAR Center Opens | STAR Center Release April 2018 | STAR Center Release June 2018 |