Sea Turtles in La Jolla - Happy World Sea Turtle Day

The sea turtles at the La Jolla Cove have been a well-kept local secret. While very few surfers, stand-up paddleboarders, snorkelers, and swimmers have actually seen them with their own eyes, every documented sighting went viral on social media. Underwater photographers, drone pilots, and hobby oceanographers shared their beautiful photos of the La Jolla sea turtles with the public. Every year World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated on June 16 - This year we are sharing great news in regards to these majestic creatures in our local waters.

Earlier this year, US Navy marine biologist Megan Hanna confirmed with a research study published in Frontiers in Marine Science, what marine life enthusiasts captured: A very small group of East Pacific green sea turtles has permanently settled in the waters off La Jolla Shores and the La Jolla Cove.

Sea turtles in La Jolla captured on camera

The green sea turtles, who are also called Chelonia mydas, live in a protected marine habitat that is also heavily frequented by kayakers, snorkelers, divers and stand-up paddleboarders. Thus regular research methods, which involve a capture-and-release approach, weren’t suitable. Therefore over 300 photographs were used in Megan Hanna at al.’s citizen-based science study to identify and research the life of the five to seven sea turtles in La Jolla.

“We appear to be seeing the result of 30 years of conservation efforts that have increased the population of green sea turtles, and some are expanding into new territories to forage,” Megan Hanna told the LA Times.

Swimming with the La Jolla sea turtles

In 2015 the first green sea turtles were spotted in La Jolla. In only six years the population has grown up to four permanent residents. While the famous leopard sharks are only populating the Shores during a certain time of the year, the green sea turtles are living in La Jolla year-round.

A noteworthy discovery was made, when the scientists noticed that the sea turtles in La Jolla show an unusual behavior: Usually sea turtles in other parts of the world are shy and swim away from humans, but the La Jolla sea turtles seem to ignore their human visitors and thus give them the chance to take a close look.

We are incredibly happy about such a positive development in our marine life system. In order to support the green sea turtle population, we urge all of our students and renters to keep their distance.

How old are the green sea turtles at the La Jolla Cove?

Scientists assume that they are between 5 and 15 years old. In general, green sea turtles can get up to 100 years old.

What should I do, if I see a green sea turtles at the La Jolla Cove?

Enjoy the moment from a distance. Since the turtles usually are not bothered by their visitors, you have time to observe them, without chasing them.

Can I touch a green sea turtle?

You should not touch the green sea turtles. Watch this beautiful animal float with your eyes and embrace the moment.

How do I get to see the sea turtles in La Jolla?

If you have the opportunity, go stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling or kayaking during less busy times, in the early morning hours or during the week. We are happy to point out the areas to you where they are mostly seen between La Jolla Shores and the La Jolla Cove.

photos: Trystan Snodgrass - Follow @trystan_and_zora