The New England Aquarium is a global leader in sea turtle care, conservation and research. All seven of the world’s sea turtle species are either endangered or threatened, and four of these species (Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, green, and loggerhead) are commonly found in New England waters.

Project Objectives

  • Restore populations of endangered sea turtles through rehabilitation of stranded and injured animals
  • Advance sea turtle clinical research and veterinary science
  • Conduct applied research on sea turtle stress and ocean health


The Aquarium uses satellite tagging to track the

effectiveness of our rehabilitation and learn about

habitats and migratory routes.

Connie Merigo attends to a rare stranded

leatherback turtle on South Beach in Chatham,

Mass.

The Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team

collaborates with colleagues from the University of

New Hampshire (UNH) and Provincetown Center for

Coastal Studies (PCCS) to release a tagged

leatherback sea turtle.

Dr. Charles Innis monitors an oiled hawksbill's

heart rate with a fetal heart monitor.

(Photo: Susan Poag/The Times-Picayune)

Rescuing Stranded Sea Turtles

Each, autumn anywhere from 25 to 150 young sea turtles—most of them critically endangered Kemp’s ridleys—are rescued alive from the beaches of Cape Cod Bay. Volunteer walkers from the Massachusetts Audubon Society comb dozens of miles of beach trying to find the sea turtles. Those sea turtles are brought to the veterinarians at the New England Aquarium often with severe hypothermia, severe dehydration, pneumonia and other injuries such as shell or bone fractures. Their treatment can last from several months to two years.

Over 70 percent of the sea turtles that arrive at the Aquarium alive survive and are released back into the ocean. Aquarium staff members have been among the first experts called to major sea turtle rescue events, such as recent cold-stun incidents in Florida and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (See blog posts written from the field about the Florida cold-stun incident and oil spill treament efforts.) To confirm our commitment we are building a new sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility in Quincy, Mass., that will greatly increase our capacity to study and care for these endangered turtles

Over the past 15 years, the Aquarium has treated and released hundreds of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles as well as many green and loggerhead sea turtles. These numbers are especially significant since the Kemp’s ridley is the most endangered sea turtle in the world, and every rescued turtle is significant to the survival of the species.

Veterinary Care, Research and Ocean Health

The Aquarium has developed an excellent reputation for caring for sea turtles. We use advanced diagnostic techniques for diagnosis and treatment, including ultrasound, x-rays, CAT scans, blood analysis, and endoscopy (See example from the Marine Animal Rescue Team Blog). We have a strong track record of peer-reviewed publications on sea turtle clinical veterinary medicine, pathology, hematology, blood chemistry and toxicology. We are engaged in collaborative research to measure hormonal responses to stress in cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley turtles, and entangled leatherback turtles.

Field Research

We are conducting collaborative research with University of Massachusetts and others on health assessments, endocrinology, and satellite tagging of free-ranging leatherback sea turtles.