Species Profile

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
Range: Atlantic Ocean
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered


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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Description

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is 1 of 6 species of hard-shelled marine turtles and has the following features: (1) 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. (2) Adults have a relatively large head and beak compared to other sea turtles. (3) Mature male Loggerheads have longer tails than females and 1 of the 2 claws present on each forelimb is long and curved. (4) Loggerheads reach sexual maturity at approximately 16-34 years of age, with a generation time of about 46 years. (Updated 2017/05/18)

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Distribution and Population

The Northwest Atlantic subpopulation of Loggerhead Sea Turtles nests primarily on subtropical and tropical beaches in the U.S. and Mexico. At sea, their range includes most of the North Atlantic Ocean. The trend in abundance for this subpopulation appears to be increasing; however, globally, the species is in decline. While in Atlantic Canada, Loggerhead Sea Turtles are mostly found in offshore waters. (Updated 2017/05/18)

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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. 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. Water temperatures greater than 20°C are typically 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. This is where Loggerheads are thought to primarily reside when in Canada. (Updated 2017/05/18)

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Biology

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. Loggerheads are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of crustaceans, salps, fish, squid and jellyfish. (Updated 2017/05/18)

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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. (Updated 2017/05/18)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Loggerhead Sea Turtle Caretta caretta in Canada (2010)

    Assessment Summary – April 2010 Common nameLoggerhead Sea Turtle Scientific name Caretta caretta StatusEndangered Reason for designationThis species is declining globally and there are well documented, ongoing declines in the Northwest Atlantic population from which juveniles routinely enter and forage in Atlantic Canadian waters. The Canadian population is threatened directly by commercial fishing, particularly bycatch in the pelagic longline fleet, and by loss and degradation of nesting beaches in the southeastern USA and the Caribbean. Other threats include bycatch from bottom and midwater trawls, dredging, gillnets, marine debris, chemical pollution and illegal harvest of eggs and nesting females. OccurrencePacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean Status historyDesignated Endangered in April 2010.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Loggerhead Sea Turtle (2010)

    This species is declining globally and there are well documented, ongoing declines in the Northwest Atlantic population from which juveniles routinely enter and forage in Atlantic Canadian waters. The Canadian population is threatened directly by commercial fishing, particularly bycatch in the pelagic longline fleet, and by loss and degradation of nesting beaches in the southeastern USA and the Caribbean. Other threats include bycatch from bottom and midwater trawls, dredging, gillnets, marine debris, chemical pollution and illegal harvest of eggs and nesting females.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2016)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of the Species at Risk Act, makes the annexed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Consultation Documents