The East Pacific green turtle eats plants and invertebrates, feeding primarily on seagrass and macroalgae, but also on mangrove leaves, molluscs, jellyfish, and sponges. It is slow to reach sexual maturity, first breeding between 20 and 50 years of age. Two nesting beaches in Michoacán (Mexico), Colola and Maruata, host one third of the population’s nests. Green turtles also nest on the Galapagos Islands and along the Mexican and Central American coast. Nesting times vary by location, but in Michoacán, the peak season is October-November, with females nesting at night every two or three years. They lay two to six clutches of 65 eggs per season. The hatchlings spend several years foraging in floating kelp mats on the open ocean before they return to coastal waters as adults.
As shown on this map, green turtles are distributed around the world in tropical and sub-tropical waters. The East Pacific green turtle subpopulation ranges along the Pacific coast of North and Central America, in the Gulf of California, and around the Galapagos Islands. They occur in greatest abundance near extensive seagrass meadows and kelp gardens, such as off the west coast of the Baja Peninsula, the Gulf of California, and San Diego Bay. They are often seen basking in the sun on the ocean surface and occasionally on beaches. In the winter, East Pacific green turtles overwinter in a dormant condition in shallow water, which has allowed them to be easily harvested by humans. The East Pacific green turtle has exhibited an extreme decline in numbers over the last 40 years, although the total population size is not known. Once common in the Gulf of California, it is rarely found there today, and the population continues to be in steep decline despite increased protection efforts.
The greatest cause of decline in the East Pacific green turtle population has been and remains commercial harvest for eggs, food, and leather, with illegal poaching continuing in some areas. It is considered both a staple by some poorer coastal communities and a delicacy by individuals able to afford black market prices. Incidental capture in offshore and inshore fisheries is also a continuing source of mortality, especially in Mexican shrimp trawl nets. Coastal development destroys nesting beaches, smothers seagrass beds with sediment, and disorients hatchlings with artificial lights. This population has exhibited signs of infection by a herpes-like skin disease called fibropapilloma, which causes large tumors that eventually inhibit swimming, feeding, breathing, or vision. Like most other sea turtles, it faces numerous other threats, including boat propeller collisions, ingestion of plastic marine debris, chemical and heavy metal contamination, and oil and gas exploration.