Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network Data Summary and Visualization Application

This application is designed to provide interactive visualizations of data collected by the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN). The data, summaries, and graphs presented herein should be considered preliminary and should not be used in publications, presentations, or reports without prior consultation of the STSSN; see the STSSN Data Access and Release Policy, below. Stranding records from the last 10 years that have been reviewed by STSSN coordination personnel are presented in this application; therefore current stranding reports may be higher than what is shown in this application. Data from the following states are summarized within this application: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. Data from Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are not summarized here but will be included in the near future. These data are updated twice daily.

STSSN Data Access and Release Policy: Any publication or use of these data should credit the appropriate state Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN). Users with the intent to publicly present or publish these data should consult or collaborate with contributing state and national network coordinators to understand data caveats, complexities, and nuances. By using this application, you acknowledge that you have read, understand, and agree with this STSSN Data Access and Release Policy.

About the STSSN

The Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network was formally established in 1980 to collect information on and document strandings of sea turtles along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts. The network encompasses the coastal areas of the eighteen state region from Maine through Texas, and includes portions of the U.S. Caribbean. Data are compiled through the efforts of network participants who document sea turtle strandings in their respective areas and contribute those data to the centralized STSSN database.

These reports summarize sea turtle strandings documented through the efforts of the STSSN. These numbers are considered minimum stranding figures, as they are reported strandings only, not all stranding events. Some sea turtle strandings are not reported, especially in remote areas or shoreline types where detection is unlikely, such as salt marsh and mangroves. Effort expended in the collection of stranding data varied both geographically and temporally. Coverage ranges from systematic weekly (or more frequent) sampling to no sampling at all in some areas. All six species known to inhabit the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Atlantic are included, these include: loggerheads (Caretta caretta), greens (Chelonia mydas), Kemp's ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea).

Terminology

Type of Encounter — The primary objective of the STSSN is to document sea turtle mortality and sea turtle mortality factors. In doing this, STSSN participants document sea turtles associated with a variety of situations. We refer to turtles in all of these situations as strandings even though some (e.g., incidental fishery interactions) are not strandings in the traditional sense. We categorize strandings into various types primarily depending upon how the turtle is encountered. Some of these encounters are then associated with a more specific circumstance. This information provides useful information regarding the stranding but is not necessarily the cause of death or debilitation. The cause of stranding, if determinable, is informed by the entire stranding report, including photographs and any supporting documentation.The types of encounter are as follows:

click types to view definitions

  • Traditional stranding

    This is when a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle is found washed ashore, floating, or underwater, and when it is not an incidental capture, a posthatchling, or a cold-stunning. Traditional strandings do not involve healthy, uninjured sea turtles.

  • Incidental capture

    This is when a sea turtle is captured incidental to (i.e., not the purpose of) an activity such as fishing (recreational or commercial), dredging, relocation trawling, non-turtle research activities, or power plant operations. Whether an incidental capture is documented through the STSSN may be optional depending upon the circumstances and may vary by state. Many incidental captures are documented elsewhere and that documentation does not necessarily need to be duplicated by the STSSN.

  • Posthatchling

    This is when a sea turtle that is less than 10 cm carapace length (curved or straight measurement) is found.

  • Cold-stunning

    The definition of cold-stunning is slightly different in the southern (Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico) and northern Atlantic coastal states.

    • Southern states (North Carolina to Texas): These turtles are usually healthy otherwise and tend to recover quickly (e.g., within days). This designation is primarily used for turtles found in areas of historic cold-stunning events (e.g., areas in and around St. Joseph Bay and areas in and around Mosquito Lagoon in Florida; the Laguna Madre in Texas) and often in large groups (more than 10 individuals). This designation is not used for dead turtles, turtles with significant trauma, or turtles with evidence of chronic illness or debilitation unless found coincident (same time and place) with a large group of live, cold-stunned turtles (and dead turtles must be no more than mildly decomposed). This designation isn’t typically used for small, dispersed groups of turtles or for individual turtles unless they are clearly healthy, associated with cold temperatures, and recover within a few days.
    • Northern states (Maine to Virginia): In this region, this designation is used for live or dead turtles that do not have any other apparent causes of stranding that are found when water temperatures persistently fall below 10C (generally beginning in October or later). This designation is not used for turtles with significant trauma or other obvious debilitating conditions unless found coincident (same time and place) with other cold-stunned turtles; in this case dead turtles must be no more than mildly decomposed.

  • Nesting related

    This is when an adult female sea turtle that has come ashore to nest becomes significantly disoriented (i.e., crawls off of the beach or beyond nesting areas), trapped (and has to be rescued), injured, or killed.

  • Other

    This is when the STSSN is documenting a type of encounter (or a situation in which a sea turtle is found or captured) that is not included above.

Initial Condition — This describes the condition of the stranded sea turtle when the stranding responder initially observed the turtle. Stranding responders are trained to categorize the condition of sea turtles using the following five categories:

click categories to view definitions

  • Alive

    The sea turtle was alive at the time of initial observation, even if the turtle died after it was first reported or discovered.

  • Fresh Dead or Mildly Decomposed

    In this case, you may initially question whether the turtle is alive. The carcass may have rigor mortis, but the eyes should be clear and there should be no smell of decomposition or evidence of bloating.

  • Moderately Decomposed

    In this case, there is a mild to moderate smell of decomposition and mild to moderate bloating and bulging eyes (if present). The soft tissue may feel spongy and the scutes and skin may be beginning to slough.

  • Severely Decomposed

    In this case, there is a foul smell and the carcass either is very distended by gas or has completely degassed (appears deflated). The scutes and skin are sloughing or missing. The limbs and carapace may be starting to disarticulate and there could be inundation by insect larvae.

  • Dried Carcass

    In this case, the carcass is completely desiccated with only dry skin and bones with little to no smell.

  • Skeletal

    In this case, the skeletal features are prominent and are disarticulating. Skin may still be present but large portions of the carcass are skeletonized.

Statistical Zone — The STSSN attributes strandings to statistical zones which provide standardized grid of coastal regions within which strandings can be summarized. The STSSN maintains a spatial polygon representation of these zones (see map, below) to which stranding records are assigned when the record is submitted to the database. With some exceptions, zone boundaries follow parallels and meridians (lines of longitude and latitude, respectively). The southern boundary of Zone 21 follows the southern border of the U.S.. The boundary between Zones 12 and 13 follows the Mississippi River. The boundary between zones 11 and 12 follows state waters boundaries between Mississippi and Alabama. The boundaries of zones 2, 3, and 25 (southern Florida) were simplified to produce logical groupings of strandings within the environmentally similar areas.

Click to View Statistical Zone Map