Tracking Sea Turtles

Scientists want to learn more about sea turtles. Tags help them gather that information.

Types of Turtle Tags

Pit Tags

Scientists and turtle caretakers often use “PIT” tags to identify sea turtles. These tags are placed under the turtle’s skin (scales), are very small, and last a long time. The PIT tag contains the individual’s ID number, similar to pet microchips. Using this number, you can access the sea turtle’s records, such as where it stranded, where it was rehabilitated and when it was released.

Satellite Tags

If scientists want to know where a turtle goes after it is released, they can use a satellite tag. Satellite tags are much larger than PIT tags and don’t last nearly as long. However, every time a turtle comes to the surface of the water the tag can send information about where they are to a satellite. The people using this information don’t even have to leave their offices to recover the information sent by the sea turtle. They can do it all from a computer.

Here are the tracks of some of the turtles we have tagged and released.

Every year, sea turtles strand on North Carolina beaches. Rehabilitation centers, including the North Carolina Aquariums, assist the rescue effort by providing care and returning these animals to good health. These turtles are then released offshore into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Tagging sea turtles helps us to learn where they go when they are released.


Vortex had an eventful Labor Day weekend! This loggerhead sea turtle was released back into the ocean at Nags Head on Sunday after being rehabilitated for over a year at the Aquarium by staff and N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) volunteers. Vortex was found with propeller wounds to the head, shell and left front flipper on May 22, 2013. As part if its rehabilitation, a CT scan was performed to determine no brain damage had occurred and the hardy sea turtle was approved for release. After some resting and a wrong turn on Sunday, Vortex finally made it home! Follow Vortex’s progress through satellite tracking at