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Sea Turtle Tag & Release Program

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Head Start

The Virginia Living Museum collaborates with North Carolina Aquariums to care for and raise juvenile loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta. Each year female loggerheads make their way ashore to nest along the beaches of coastal North Carolina. These nests are federally protected and continuously monitored by a network of volunteers and institutions to ensure the maximum number of hatchlings survive. Healthy hatchlings are protected from predation by the observers, but otherwise left to make their way into the sea on their own, while weak or disoriented hatchlings are collected to be nursed back to health at the North Carolina Aquariums and their partner institutions. The vast majority of the hatchlings that are collected are released as soon as they are healthy and strong enough to survive in the wild, while a few of these turtles remain on public display at the N.C. Aquariums or their partner facilities, including the Virginia Living Museum. Each of these living ambassadors helps to educate the public and inspire conservation efforts to ensure the survival of their species, all the while growing large enough to fend off virtually any natural predator by the time of their release.

The VLM has raised and displayed  juvenile loggerhead for several years before returning them to North Carolina to be released back into the wild. These turtles are taken 25 miles offshore out of Beaufort, N.C., to the Gulf Stream where they are released. Some turtles like“Abby” in 2013 are fitted with a satellite tag to provide much needed data regarding their movements and migratory behavior. These lightweight tags are attached to the turtles’ shells and transmit a signal each time the turtles surface, which indicates their exact location. This information is available not only to researchers but also free to the general public at seaturtle.org.

Watch this video documenting the tag and release of Abby in 2013.

Abby traveled 2751 kilometers before the tag stopped transmitting. Abby was followed by Abe, who was exhibited for two years and weighed more than 150 pounds when he was released in 2015.  Abe traveled 3444 kilometers (2140) before the tag stopped transmitting. You can follow Abe’s track here. Coco and Gingersnap were also raised and exhibited before being released back to the ocean in 2017 and 2018, respectively, without tags.