Who are you rooting for?

By Meghan Overdeep
June 25, 2020
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Sea Turtle with Transmitter
Credit: Celeste McWilliams/Sea Turtle Conservancy

Who needs professional sports when there's an epic turtle marathon unfolding?

Since 2008, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has been hosting the hottest competition on four flippers. The annual Tour de Turtles “migration marathon” follows more than a dozen sea turtles over the course of approximately three months as they travel from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. The unwitting competitors swim with the goal of being the first turtle to travel the furthest distance.

On June 16, six nesting leatherback turtles departed from Palm Beach County, Florida, in STC’s first-ever “leatherbacks only” heat. Through the use of satellite telemetry, the non-profit is tracking leatherbacks Jessie, Nevada, Freckles, Hope, Tamarind, and Tartleby—named by their corporate sponsors—to determine how far the sea turtles swim. Members of the public can monitor competitors’ progress online. The one to swim the furthest distance by October 31 wins.

Each turtle also swims to raise awareness about a threat that sea turtles face each day. These threats include light pollution, beach erosion, marine debris, oil spills, commercial fisheries, poaching, invasive species predation, climate change, and more. The data collected during the Tour de Turtles helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation methods and policies. 

The next batch of competitors, the hard-shell turtles, launch their own Tour de Turtles race on August 1. So far, Maisy, a rare hybrid green/hawksbill turtle, is the only hard-shell turtle that has been released. STC will satellite tag and release at least eight more hard-shell turtles in July.

Maisy, the first hybrid turtle the non-profit has ever tracked, was rescued almost a year ago off the Lower Keys suffering from fibropapillomatosis tumors and a severe case of pneumonia. Go Maisy, go!

To follow Maisy and her friends, visit TourDeTurtles.org.