Sea turtles have been swimming the oceans for more than 100 million years. They have persisted through natural predators, climatic changes and even the mass dinosaur extinction. They have proven to be important ecologically, economically and culturally both in the United States and abroad. Nonetheless, modern day human activities are killing sea turtles at a faster rate than many populations can sustain.
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In fact, each of the sea turtle species found in U.S. waters is listed as either “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – which means they may be driven to extinction in the foreseeable future. Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles inhabit the Gulf of Mexico for some portion of their lives: green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and loggerhead (Caretta caretta).