The Florida Keys are known for their abundant population of sea turtles, but the most common species to be seen in our waters is the green sea turtle (Chelonia Mydas). The green sea turtle is the second largest species growing up to 500 lbs and can live an average of 80-100 years in the wild. All sea turtles are indeterminate growers which means they never stop growing until they die so the older they live- the bigger they get. They can be easily identified by their smaller, oval skulls as well as their brownish colored shell.
Green sea turtles get their name not because they're green on the outside, rather they are green on the inside. This species of sea turtle has a diet of primarily green foods such as seagrass and algae (which is why they thrive in the Florida Keys)! They eat so much green material, it turns their fat inside a bright green coloration. We know this to be true because humans used to eat green sea turtle meat back before it was outlawed. In fact, Key West was home to the worlds largest turtle cannery where they would harvest and sell green sea turtle meat for a profit. People commonly made turtle soup with their meat. Luckily, that became illegal after the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was enforced. Any turtle soup on menus today is most likely made with snapping turtle meat.
The green sea turtle species is also known for eating jelly fish and squid classifying them as omnivores. Sharks are their biggest predators in the ocean. They are wonderful swimmers, traveling distances of up to 1,500 miles annually and capable of speed bursts up to 30mph. The green sea turtle is also the most common species known for being impacted by the Fibropapilloma virus which causes them to grow external as well as internal tumors which can be fatal if not treated.
Today, this magnificent species of sea turtle is classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). They are protected in most countries today meaning you cannot collect, harm or kill them! With global efforts being made today to educate people about sea turtles, we hope to get them off the endangered species list in the next several years!