Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Caretta caretta

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is 1 of 6 species of hard-shelled marine turtles and has the following features:

  • The head and carapace (top shell) are reddish-brown and the flippers are brown, fading into yellow at the edges. The underside of the body, flippers and tail are yellow to creamy white.
  • Adults have a relatively large head and beak compared to other sea turtles.
  • Mature male Loggerheads have longer tails than females and 1 of the 2 claws present on each forelimb is long and curved.
  • Loggerheads reach sexual maturity at approximately 16-34 years of age, with a generation time of about 46 years.

Habitat

Loggerhead Sea Turtles are widely distributed in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Although Atlantic and Pacific populations of the turtle are genetically distinct, there are no recognized subspecies. Loggerheads found in Canadian waters likely originate from the same nesting populations as turtles found in northeastern U.S. waters (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and the Caribbean coast of Mexico). The largest nesting area for the Western Atlantic species is in Peninsular Florida. While there are no confirmed reports of Loggerheads in the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia, sightings off the coasts of Washington and Alaska suggest they may occur in British Columbia occasionally.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles spend most of their lives at sea, but adult females come ashore to lay their eggs on subtropical and tropical beaches every 2-3 years. During a nesting season, they lay 3 or 4 clutches of approximately 110 eggs each, with 14 days between nesting events. The eggs hatch after 7-13 weeks of incubation depending on the temperature of the nest.

At sea, Loggerhead Sea Turtles prefer water temperatures of 18°C and warmer. Smaller individuals find food, warmth and shelter from predators in floating mats of seaweed in the open ocean beyond the continental shelf. Larger juvenile loggerheads, which are less vulnerable to predation, occupy shelf waters along the southeastern U.S. through to New England and offshore waters of the North Atlantic. Mature Loggerheads mainly inhabit relatively shallow continental shelf waters from New York south through the Gulf of Mexico.

In Atlantic Canadian waters, Loggerhead habitat is defined temporally and geographically, in part, by sea surface temperature. Sea surface temperatures above 20°C seem to be preferred. In Canada, these conditions are found in the thermally dynamic waters along the shelf break and further offshore, where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream mix with the cooler waters of the Labrador Current.

Loggerheads are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of crustaceans, salps, fish, squid and jellyfish.

Threats

Anthropogenic threats to Loggerhead Sea Turtles include (in no particular order):

  • fisheries bycatch;
  • entanglement;
  • underwater noise;
  • marine pollution;
  • vessel strikes;
  • legal and illegal harvest;
  • coastal development;
  • artificial light; and
  • potentially other factors, such as climate change.

Harvesting, coastal development and artificial light are not threats in Canadian waters.

Further Information

A recovery strategy for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle in Canada will be developed over the coming year. Once completed, it will be published on the Species at Risk Public Registry for a 60-day public comment period.

In 2010, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) worked with the fishing industry to develop and implement the Atlantic Canadian Loggerhead Turtle Conservation Action Plan. The plan sought to monitor and mitigate incidental capture and post-release mortality of sea turtles by Canadian commercial fleets. This was preceded by the industry-led Code of Conduct for Responsible Sea Turtle Handling and Mitigative Measures, established by the Nova Scotia Swordfishermen’s Association in 2003. Licence conditions for the pelagic longline fleet were recently updated to ensure current best practices in sea turtle handling and bycatch prevention are being adopted and recovery of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle in Atlantic Canadian waters is not compromised.

DFO Science is also working with the fishing industry to study the behavior of Loggerhead Sea Turtles by applying satellite tags to turtles at sea. This will help to better define species distribution and habitat use within Atlantic Canada in time and space.

To report a Loggerhead Sea Turtle sighting, please contact:

Canadian Sea Turtle Network
 1-888-729-4667 (toll-free)
 info@seaturtle.ca

To report a Loggerhead Sea Turtle incident (e.g. a dead, entangled, or injured animal), please call a toll-free hotline as soon as possible:

  • In the Maritimes:  1-866-567-6277 (Canadian Sea Turtle Network)
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador:  1-888-895-3003 (Whale Release and Strandings-Newfoundland and Labrador)

Visit the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to see a life-sized model of a juvenile Loggerhead Sea Turtle on display.

For more information on the Loggerhead Sea Turtle and other species at risk, visit the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Side view of a Loggerhead Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Scientific name: Caretta caretta
Taxonomy: Reptile (marine)
SARA Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
Region: Pacific and Atlantic Oceans

Region map

Region map, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans

Pacific and Atlantic Oceans

Help protect sea turtles!

You can help protect sea turtles by using less plastic. Sea turtles may mistake plastic waste for food. They may also get tangled up in various kinds of plastic, such as six-pack rings from pop cans or packing straps, which may cause injuries or make it hard for them to swim or feed.

Ways you can help:

  • Refuse single-use plastics, like straws and bags
  • Remember your reusable shopping bags
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers
  • Use refillable water bottles
  • Recycle plastic whenever possible
  • Never litter - garbage can be carried by wind and water to the ocean
Overhead view of a Loggerhead Turtle swimming

Overhead view of a Loggerhead Turtle swimming.
Photo Credit: Leah Crowe, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Did You Know?

The sex of Loggerhead hatchlings is dependent on the temperature of the nest, with more males produced below 29°C and more females produced above 29°C.

The Loggerhead turtle swimming in the tank is a part of a 2015 tagging project with NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island

The Loggerhead turtle swimming in the tank is a part of a 2015 tagging project with NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island

Related information