© 2023
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

You can track sea turtles released on Cape Cod

A green sea turtle rehabilitated by the New England Aquarium looks up after being released on a Cape Cod beach in July 2023.
New England Aquarium
New England Aquarium
A green sea turtle rehabilitated by the New England Aquarium looks up after being released on a Cape Cod beach in July 2023.

You can now track some of the sea turtles that have been released on Cape Cod beaches to see where they go next. 

The New England Aquarium was able to tag a record 14 turtles this summer with the help of additional funding. Aquarium scientist Kara Dodge says in a usual year, she can tag only three to four.

The inspiration for the new online map came from the volunteers on Cape Cod who work long hours in cold weather to rescue cold-stunned sea turtles, she said.

“One of the questions I’m asked always is, ‘How can we follow along?’” Dodge said.

“We thought, ‘Let’s try to get a website up so people can actually follow along the turtles’ journey,’ she added. “Especially because now we have so many turtles to follow.”

Many of the turtles that were released this summer were rescued last fall on Cape beaches and brought back to health by aquarium staff. They include Ziti, Farfalle, and Cavatelli. (The group was named after types of pasta.)

Eight of this year’s tags are on endangered Kemps Ridleys and the other six are on green sea turtles. Dodge says the tags will improve the science around these turtles.

“We really have almost no data on especially Kemps Ridleys and green sea turtles in New England,” she said. “It’s basically just a big glaring data gap. So all the data that comes in is new information for these species.”

Since they were put back in the water this summer, many of the turtles have been hanging around Cape Cod or swimming down to New York and New Jersey. When the water temperature drops in November, they should be heading farther south, Dodge said.

The map also follows some leatherback turtles that Dodge tagged in the Caribbean. Their tracks are strikingly different from the smaller sea turtles. Rather than sticking close to shore, the leatherbacks travel hundreds of miles off the coast of the U.S.

The tags on the Kemps Ridleys and green sea turtles typically stay on for about a year, Dodge said. The turtles are still growing, so the tags will simply pop off as the turtle gets bigger. The cost of the tag plus the satellite tracking service runs about $2,000 per turtle, so lack of funding has limited the number of turtles Dodge can track.

Elsa Partan is a producer and newscaster with CAI. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.