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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 raises and displays one juvenile loggerhead every three years. At the end of those three years these juveniles may have grown as large as 200 pounds before being returned 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” 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

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

After Abby’s release, our newest seaturtle joined our Chesapeake Bay Tank.  He/she was named Abe. Read all about Abe’s release in 2015.  Abe traveled 3444 kilometers (2140) before the tag stopped transmitting. You can follow Abe’s track here.

We have since had Coco who was picked up when Abe was returned back to the ocean. Coco was released in November 2017, without a tag. Coco has been replaced by Ginger Snap which is our current turtle soon to be introduced to Chesapeake Bay Tank.

The tradition of returning seaturtles back to the ocean continues.