Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

(Lepidochelys olivacea)



  • up to 1.0 m


  • olive-grey


  • smooth, heart-shaped (as wide as it is long)
  • scute behind the head is square
  • shell is very domed
  • has many more scutes along the length of the shell than green or loggerhead turtles.


Surface behaviour

  • surfaces to breathe for a few minutes
  • holds head above water, then slowly sinks back down

Group size / social behaviour 

  • solitary


Other characteristics

  • smallest of the sea turtles

Can be confused with

  • loggerhead sea turtle
  • green sea turtle

Natural History

Olive ridley sea turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles. They are widespread in tropical waters in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Ocean, they are commonly found around Mexico and Central America; however many have been known to migrate as far south as Peru.

Olive ridley sea turtles are strong divers, and have been known to dive up to 150 m in search of crabs, sea urchins and other bottom-dwelling creatures. They also roam widely in the open ocean in search of sea jellies.

Like all sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, poaching and harvesting at their breeding beaches, disease, and mortality in fishing gear.


Although an olive ridley sea turtles has only been seen once in British Columbia, there has also been occasional sightings of olive ridley sea turtles in Oregon and Washington waters in recent years. As our oceans change, we might expect to start seeing olive ridleys on Canada’s Pacific coast.

Status in Canada

The olive ridley sea turtle is designated as Vulnerable worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. The IUCN has posted the following assessment of olive ridley sea turtles.


Cheng, I.-J. and Chen, T.-H. 1997. The incidental capture of five species of sea turtles by coastal setnet fisheries in the Eastern waters of Taiwan. Biological Conservation 82(2): 235-239

Koch, V., Nichols, W.J., Peckham, H. and de la Toba, V. 2006. Estimates of sea turtle mortality from poaching and bycatch in Bahía Magdalena, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Biological Conservation 128(3): 327-334

Mascarenhas, R., Santos, R. and Zeppelini, D. 2004. Plastic debris ingestion by sea turtle in Paraíba, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49(4): 354-355

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