Species Profile

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2010
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2b+4b
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: 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.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 2010.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2017-04-13

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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

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.

12 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Loggerhead Sea Turtle (2010-12-02)

    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.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) in Atlantic Canada (2020-12-02)

    The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is one of seven sea turtle species globally. This species is broadly distributed in the temperate, sub-tropical, and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Loggerheads nest and forage at lower latitudes and also forage at higher latitudes. Nine Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) have been identified globally. Loggerhead Sea Turtles occurring in Atlantic Canadian waters are believed to belong almost exclusively to the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS. When in Canadian waters during the summer, these turtles typically occur offshore along the continental shelf break and beyond, from Georges Bank to the southern Grand Banks. Their distribution is driven in part by water temperature, with warmer waters being preferred. There is currently no population estimate for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS. Nesting data are used as a population index. Following a period of significant decline, nesting numbers have shown an increasing trend in recent years.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010-09-03)

    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.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-17-PMAR-00001), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2017-05-03)

    Commercial fishing with pelagic longline gear is authorized for use by license holders in the Swordfish and Other Tunas (Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin) fisheries in Atlantic Canadian waters. Pelagic longlines consist of a mainline, gangions and baited hooks that can be suspended at any depth in the water column, depending on the target species. Incidental bycatch of Loggerhead Sea Turtles is known to occur in fisheries using pelagic longline gear to target Swordfish and "other tunas". This is the only recorded human-induced threat to this species in Atlantic Canadian waters.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-18-PNCR-00001), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-06-18)

    The activities involve disentangling whales (including North Atlantic Right Whales, Blue Whale, Northern Bottlenose Whale, Beluga Whale, Fin Whale) , Sea Turtles (including Leatherback Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Sea Turtles), Dolphins and Porpoises from fishing gear and lines. The rescue activities include repeated close approaches at sea in small vessels, physically interacting with an individual for the purpose of securing, detangling, re-floating, freeing the individuals from gears, including fishing weirs, using standard protocols. In addition, activities involving dead animals include collection of biological information and the transfer of the animals to a location where necropsies can be conducted. There will be no tissue sample collection from live animals or tagging of live animals.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-PMAR-00007), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-06-06)

    The purpose of this research is to collect information on reproductive and health status, stress responses, contaminant loads for whales and to better understand and address the cumulative effects of shipping noise on whales. The research targets North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW), Blue Whale (BW) and the Northern Bottlenose Whale (NBW). The project will gather information about the health and well-being of the animals before and after exposure to ship noise. Drone overflights will be used to collect aerial photographs to visually assess body condition (30-40 meters (m) above the animal). In addition, hormonal data will be collected to assess reproductive status and the activity of the stress response. This data will come from skin and blubber samples (collected using crossbow-launched biopsy darts), blow samples (collected using drones at 2.5 meters above the animals), and fecal matter (collected from the water). Additionally, blubber and potentially skin samples may be used to assess contaminant loads (concentration of contaminates). Deployment of acoustic tags using suction cups will reveal information about the behaviour of the whales while submerged, including the sounds they produce and how they respond to ships. To collect the biopsies, a crossbow with an arrow fitted with a stainless steel tip (barbed on the inside to hold the sample) will be used to extract a sample of skin and blubber when possible. The darts are 7 millimeters (mm) x 40 mm in size. The tags used are noninvasive suction-cup-attached digital archival acoustic recording tags. The whale is then followed at a distance of 3-5 nautical miles (nm) and the tag is retrieved once it falls off (2-6 hours). Researchers will also opportunistically collect photos of Leatherback Sea Turtles (LBT) and Loggerhead Sea Turtles (LHT) from drone overflights to supplement existing information on the health (including entanglement rates) and size of these species, and thus also population structure, in Canadian waters. This work will take place in Canadian waters, off the coast of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Activities will take place in the designated critical habitat for NARW near Grand Manan Basin and Roseway Basin, and in NBW critical habitat near the Gully Marine Protected Area, Shortland Canyon, and Haldimand Canyon located off the coast of Nova Scotia. This work will be undertaken primarily during the summer months, although work may occur at any time from April to November each year, from 2019 to 2022. The activities authorized by this permit consist of: Close approaches in a vessel (whales and turtles); Drone overflights (whales and turtles); Biopsy sampling (whales only); and Suction-cup acoustic tag deployment (whales only).
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-PMAR-00010), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-01-01)

    Commercial fishing with pelagic longline gear is authorized for use by license holders in the Swordfish and Other Tunas (Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin) fisheries in Atlantic Canadian waters. Pelagic longlines consist of a mainline, gangions and baited hooks that can be suspended at any depth in the water column, depending on the target species. Incidental bycatch of White sharks is a rare, but known, occurrence in fisheries using pelagic longline gear to target Swordfish and "other tunas". Incidental bycatch of Loggerhead sea turtles is known to occur in fisheries using pelagic longline gear to target Swordfish and "other tunas". This is the only recorded human-induced threat to this species in Atlantic Canadian waters.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-PMAR-00043 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-04-20)

    The proposed activities will be part of a multi-year, multi-species research and conservation program to increase knowledge of the biology and conservation of Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles in Canadian Atlantic waters. The proposed research activities will contribute to addressing the recovery objectives outlined in the SARA Recovery Strategy documents for Leatherback Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Sea Turtles in Atlantic Canada. The proposed research activities will include the directed and incidental capture of both species and related research. Free-swimming turtles may be opportunistically captured through directed capture efforts using commercial vessels, or during those portions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) turtle research cruises that are carried out in Canadian waters. Captured turtles will be processed for data collection, sampled, tagged, and released. Additional research activities will include rescuing turtles in distress and investigating\sampling dead turtles. This research is aimed at enhancing the understanding of Sea Turtle biology, movements and distribution in Canadian waters, evaluating the prevalence of different hooking conditions in the Canadian pelagic longline fishery, and estimating post-release mortality among hooked turtles. The activities authorized by this permit consist of: Close approaches at sea in small vessels. Capturing turtles, boarding them onto vessels, and releasing them with a dip net or break-away hoop net. Handling and restraining turtles to take samples (measurements, tissue and blood samples) and investigate fishing hook locations Handling and restraining turtles to apply tags (metal, satellite, Bluetooth, pop-up archival tags) and video-time-depth data loggers. Inserting microchip / Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags Freeing turtles from gear using established protocols Assisting turtles that are stranded on a beach Retrieving, holding in a location for processing, possessing, measuring, sampling, transporting, transferring, and/or disposing turtle carcasses, parts, or samples.

Consultation Documents

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