Ship strikes occur when a boat makes contact with a turtle in the water. The severity of a ship strike corresponds to the size and speed of the boat. The impact can either kill the turtle instantly or will lead to a slow death from wounds, internal injuries, or impaired buoyancy.

Turtles are particularly vulnerable to boat strikes when they surface for air and when they are resting at the surface between dives.

All species of sea turtles are at risk from ship strikes. However, sea turtle species known to spend more time near the surface face grater risks than their counterparts at depth.

Predictive tools based on sea turtle sightings, including information on turtle behavior within particular habitats and seasonal variations, can help to reduce ship strikes.

Ship strikes in coastal areas are primarily caused by recreational craft. Transoceanic shipping vessels present risks to sea turtles migrating or foraging in pelagic habitats. Nearly one-tenth of stranded turtles show evidence of ship strikes, but it is likely that turtles struck by a boat, far from shore, never wash up.

Take Action for Sea Turtles

Practice Responsible Boating:

  • Use Sea Turtle Spotter to learn when turtles are most active in the areas you visit on the water and contribute your sightings.

  • Stay within posted speed limits and moderate your speed.

  • Designate someone on board to spot sea turtles and communicate findings to the captain.

  • Use deep water channels whenever possible to allow turtles an opportunity to escape.

  • Avoid driving through shallow waters or obvious foraging habitats, like seagrass beds.

Limit Impacts from Transoceanic Shipping:

  • Buy locally made goods whenever possible to reduce risks of ship strikes associated with transoceanic shipping.

  • Support policies that reduce the negative impacts on sea turtles and other marine life associated with the exponential growth of transoceanic shipping.

  • Advocate for designation of shipping corridors that reduce overlap with sea turtle migration routes and other sensitive habitat.