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10 Thing You Should Know About the Urban Sea Turtle of Los Angeles

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hugh

10 Thing You Should Know About the Urban Sea Turtle of Los Angeles
A Green Sea Turtle spits out water as it surfaces in the San Gabriel River.  | Hugh Ryono

Since 2008 the Aquarium of the Pacific has been collecting observational data on the sea turtles of the San Gabriel River. The northern most colony of green sea turtles in the world.

Here are ten things you should know about these sea turtles.

  1. The turtles in the river are Green Sea Turtles. In the Pacific Ocean these turtles are normally associated with the warmer waters off Hawaii and Mexico.
  2. The size of the turtles in the river runs from small “dinner plate” sized animals to large one with 4-foot shells.
  3. These sea turtles do not breed locally. The sand is too cold to incubate their eggs. When they reach breeding age and size these turtles leave the river and probably head to Mexican waters to breed.
  4. The turtles are attracted to the San Gabriel River because of the warm water being released into the river from the nearby power plants cooling systems. The water is treated before it is released into the river and monitored regularly by the plant personnel.
  5. There has been anecdotal evidence that sea turtles have been using the river for decades.
  6. The sea turtles use several miles of the river. They have been tracked past the 405 Freeway where the river turns from foliage covered river banks to concrete lined flood control banks.
  7. The greatest danger to these sea turtles while in the river may be water-ski boats greatly exceeding the 5 mile per hour speed limit.
  8. The platelet patterns on their heads are being used to photo identify individual turtles. Some turtles have been identified from prior years indicating that they may be resident rather than transient.
  9. During the warmer summer months the turtles will range widely up and down the river and also into wetland areas such as Seal Beach and Bolsa Chica. In the winter months, they mainly congregate around the discharge stations of the power plants along the river.
  10. These ideal sea turtle conditions are going to change in the near future. The power plants are converting to a closed cooling system that will eliminate the warm water being released into the river. The data the Aquarium of the Pacific is collecting on the sea turtles will be used as a baseline to see how the change affects the sea turtles of the river.
10 Thing You Should Know About the Urban Sea Turtle of Los Angeles
A large green sea turtle just under the water.  | hugh Ryono
10 Thing You Should Know About the Urban Sea Turtle of Los Angeles
Aquarium of the Pacific Volunteer Sea Turtle Researcher Pam Ryono scans the San Gabriel River for surfacing sea turtles. Pam has been observing the turtles of the river since 2008.  | Hugh Ryono
10 Thing You Should Know About the Urban Sea Turtle of Los Angeles
A sea turtle showing off the platelets on its head that are being used to photo identify individual turtles in the river  | Hugh Ryono

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