Green Sea Turtle
Chelonia mydas, commonly known as the green turtle is a large sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The range of the species extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They are green because of their fat underneath their shell. It is illegal to collect, harm, or kill individual turtles. Many countries have implemented various laws and ordinances to protect individual turtles and turtle nesting areas. However, the turtles’ populations are still in danger because of several human practices. In some countries, the turtles are still hunted for their flesh and their eggs are collected from nests and eaten as a delicacy. Pollution indirectly harms the turtle populations both on the population and the individual scale. Many turtles die as a result of being caught in fishermen’s nets and drowning. Finally, habitat loss due to human development is a major reason for the loss of green sea turtle nesting beaches.
In the Pacific, the range of the green turtle reaches as far north as the southern coast of Alaska and as far south as Chile in the east. The turtle’s distribution in the Western Pacific is known as far north as Japan and even southern parts of Russia’s Pacific coast and as far south as the northern tip of New Zealand and a few islands further south of Tasmania. Significant nesting grounds are scattered throughout the entire region. Pacific green turtle nesting grounds are found in Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, the South Pacific, the northern coast of Australia and Southeast Asia.
Unlike most sea turtles, which spend most of their adult lives in the ocean, green sea turtles are known to willingly crawl onto secluded beaches during the day to bask in the sun. They migrate long distances between their chosen feeding sites and the beaches from where they hatched. Some are known to swim distances of greater than 1,400miles (2,600km) to reach their spawning grounds. Mature turtles will often return to the same exact beach from which they hatched.
Swimmers in Hawai’i and Mexico often encounter green sea turtles underwater at popular snorkeling and diving locations. They are often observed feeding and are quite unconcerned with humans. When they come out on land to rest they are easily disturbed. Photographing a green sea turtle that is relaxed and not trying to get away from you is a very rewarding experience.