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Southern California Sea Turtles

Sea turtles live in Southern California year-round. Green turtles are the most numerous sea turtles in Southern California, but other species are found here as well, including the Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, and Leatherback turtle. All of these animals lead multi-national lives, feeding and growing in the United States and nesting in far off places like Japan, Papua New Guinea, and Costa Rica.

Southern California’s green sea turtles all begin their lives in the Revillagigedos Islands in Mexico. They then travel up the coast while they forage for invertebrates, seaweed and sea grasses to eat, from San Diego Bay up to the San Gabriel River in Long Beach. Some have even been spotted travelling as far North as the San Joaquin River near San Francisco! These turtles forage out in the open ocean during the day, moving into protected bays, lagoons and estuaries around sunset, year-round. Unlike Atlantic green turtles, Eastern Pacific green turtles’ breeding habits are sporadic. Thus, they can be found cruising up and down the West Coast all year.

Most people in Southern California are not looking for turtles when they’re in the water, and this can mean big trouble for sea turtles. Being struck by boats is one of the primary causes of death for sea turtles in Southern California, yet no signs or other information about sea turtles are available at most boat ramps or harbors.

Hopefully, all that is about to change. UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography Student, Sabrina Mashburn, has been meeting with boaters from Long Beach to San Diego to help spread the word about these fascinating marine reptiles. Sabrina’s project aims to educate boaters in the hopes of reducing the number of turtles being struck by boats in Southern California, and increase awareness of our local sea turtles.

Next time you're out on the water, keep an eye out for turtles surfacing to breathe, especially around sunset in bays and estuaries. If you spot a turtle, you can report the sighting at

For more information, or to report a sea turtle sighting, please visit

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