In the United States, several strategies and laws have been implemented for the conservation of sea turtles, which include federal, state and local protection laws, international agreements and immediate conservation goals. All sea turtles within U.S. territorial waters are provided legal rights under the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, which lists 10 populations as endangered and six populations as threatened.
Sea turtles are predominantly marine-dwelling reptiles characterized by their scaly, leathery shells and large flippers. These animals occasionally come ashore to lay eggs, traveling considerable distances from their natural feeding habitats to their nesting grounds. Major threats that cause their rapid population decline include illegal trading, serious damage to feeding and nesting grounds due to human intervention, ship collisions and entanglement with commercial fishing equipment and other marine wreckage.
Under the ESA, certain conservation measures have been passed into legislation that consider injuring and killing sea turtles and their young as criminal acts. It is equally unlawful to engage in commercial activities by selling, importing or exporting marine turtles and their products. State and local governments are also empowered to impose regulatory policies to protect sea turtles and their natural environments. International compliance laws, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, further aim to safeguard and increase the population of these marine animals. One immediate goal by various agencies is to constantly study and track the movements of sea turtle populations via satellites.