There are four species of sea turtles that can be found in New York’s coastal waters: green, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles. They remain local in the area during the warmer months from approximately May through November, and will typically begin their migration south to warmer nesting waters by mid-November.
As a result of climate change impacts, warmer water temperatures cause sea turtles to remain in the area longer than usual. When there is a sudden drop in water temperature before sea turtles migrate out of the area, they can fall victim to cold-stunning, a hypothermic condition that results in a lethargic state. Sea turtles that experience cold-stunning will wash ashore on New York beaches and require immediate professional care. DEC works closely with New York Marine Rescue Center and Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS) to support response efforts.
If you see a sea turtle wash ashore, call the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (631) 369-9829 and relay as much information as possible. The rescue team needs a detailed explanation of where the animal is located. If possible, write down the coordinates and/or mark the turtle’s location with something, such as a stick or driftwood, that will be easy for the team to find.
Do not touch the animal, put the animal back in the water, or remove the animal from the beach. Sea turtles are federally protected animals and are only to be handled by authorized personnel. Any further sudden changes in temperature or additional stress can lead to death.
Visit DEC’s website for more information about saltwater fishing.
Photo of big hawaiian sea turtle warming up on the sand beach, laying close to water edge, surf provided by DEC.