How to Identify Green Sea Turtles

If you've ever been scuba diving you might get excited over seeing a turtle. The better you get, the more turtles you see and eventually you start to identify a Green Sea Turtle, a  Loggerhead, or a Hawksbill turtle.  If you're really lucky, you might encounter a Kemps-Ridley or maybe even a Leatherback.  

Green Sea TurtleIdentifying a Green Sea Turtle

Loggerhead and Green turtles are similar, but here are some differences you might be able to quickly see as you glide past a sea turtle on your dive:

  • Number of scutes.  
    • A green sea turtle has 4 lateral scutes
    • A loggerhead turtle has 5 lateral scutes
  • Number of claws
    • A green sea turtle has 1 claw on each front flipper
    • A loggerhead turtle has 2 claws on each front flipper
  • Head size
    • A green sea turtle has a smaller, rounder head
    • A loggerhead turtle has a larger head

These three things will help you decipher which turtle you encounter.

Endangered Species

Though you might encounter many turtles on your dive in a particular area, you should know that sea turtles are actually endangered.  Many programs are in place to help protect sea turtles, and in fact - divers are a catalyst to help.

These sea turtles are endangered:

  • Olive Ridley - vulnerable (most common with over 800,000 nesting females)
  • Leatherback - vulnerable
  • Green - endangered
  • Loggerhead - endangered
  • Hawksbill - critically endangered
  • Flatbacks - endangered
  • Kemps Ridley (most endangered with less than 2,500 nesting females)

Divers can help turtles through several means:

  • Loving turtles - talking about them and encouraging others to do the same
  • Diving - marine parks are often funded by dive tourism to support marine life such as turtles and their habitats
  • Funding - many divers are large advocates for sea turtle program funding
  • Tagging - citizen scientist programs are available to help tag and track turtles to protect their habitats
  • Clean up - divers help clean the oceans, mangroves, beaches and waterways 
  • First aid - divers and boaters can spot turtles in need of assistance and help notify the proper turtle authorities to help

Next time you dive with a sea turtle, remember - you are encountering an endangered species!  And, you have an opportunity to advocate for them -  now, go diving!