Sea Turtles in the Sanctuary

Four species of sea turtle can be found in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Read about them below.

Learn more about Sanctuary wildlife.

Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The Sanctuary is considered critical habitat for endangered leatherback turtles. Leatherbacks are threatened globally by egg harvesting, intentional fishing, bycatch, vessel strikes, and habitat loss.

Habitat: Open ocean

Range: Tropic and temperate waters of Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Oceans and Mediterranean Sea

Avg. Size: ~4.5-7 ft; 600-2,000 lbs

Diet: Jellyfish, salps, other soft-bodied invertebrates

Fun Fact: Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on earth and can dive to 4,200 ft, deeper than any other sea turtle.

Photo: Mark Cotter

Pacific Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)

The Sanctuary is considered an extremely important habitat for endangered olive ridley sea turtles. They are the smallest of all sea turtles. While they typically prefer warmer water, they can be found in cooler California waters, sometimes in small groups, sunning on the water surface to keep warm.

Habitat: Bays, estuaries, coastal, open ocean

Range: Global in tropical areas of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans; occasionally in temperate waters

Avg. Size: ~2-2.5 ft; 80-110 lbs

Diet: Algae, fish, small invertebrates (crabs, shellfish, shrimp)

Fun Fact: Olive ridley sea turtles have a heart-shaped carapace (shell).

Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead turtles are the largest of the all the hard-shelled turtles and can be spotted in the Sanctuary. They are highly migratory and travel between tropical and temperate waters across the world. They are threatened by habitat loss and entanglement.

Habitat: Bays, estuaries, shallow waters

Range: Temperate and tropical coastal waters of Atlantic, Pacifica, and Indian Oceans and Mediterranean Sea

Avg. Size: ~2.5-3.5 ft; 155-375 lbs

Diet: Shellfish (crabs, clams and mussels)

Fun Fact: Female loggerheads typically don’t reach sexual maturity until they are ~25-35 years old!

Photo: NOAA

Green sea turtle swimming underwater on a seagrass bed.

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

While a rare visitor to the Sanctuary, the Eastern Pacific population of green sea turtles have been seen in North-central California waters. Like other green sea turtle populations around the world, this population is considered threatened by habitat loss, fisheries bycatch and entanglement in fisheries gear.

Habitat: Shallow coastal waters, sandy beach, open ocean

Range: Global primarily in tropical and subtropical waters

Avg. Size: ~3-4 ft; 300-400 lbs

Diet: Eelgrass, algae, jellyfish, sponges, and small invertebrates

Fun Fact: Green sea turtles can live to be over 80 years old!

Photo: Ralph Pace