Sea Turtles In Norway: Are There Sea Turtles In The Norwegian Ocean and Fjords?

Norway has an incredible wildlife with lots of different animals both on land in the the ocean. There are sharks in the fjords, whales in the ocean, and bears, wolves and lynxes in the forest.

You can go on whale watching safaris, puffin safaris and have the option of seeing lots of different marine wildlife, but are there are any sea turtles in Norway?

You can occasionally see sea turtles in Norway, but it’s exceedingly rare. Researchers believe that they are seen in Norwegian waters roughly once every 10 years, so don’t come here and expect a sea turtle safari.

The only species of sea turtle to have been spotted in Norway is the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). This is the largest of all living sea turtle species, and they have been sighted several times in the ocean just outside Norway.

A full-grown leatherback sea turtle can weight as much as 750 kg, and reach just under 2 meters in length!

Leatherback sea turtle
Leatherback sea turtle. Photo published with permission.

Recent leatherback sea turtle sightings in Norwegian waters

Researchers believe leatherback sea turtles to be incredible rare in Norwegian waters, and have said that they appear in Norway every 10 years on average. Despite this, there have been two recent sighting on leatherback sea turtles in Norway.

On October 4 2021, a research team discovered a leatherback sea turtles underwater outside the town of Stad.

Finding this was just a lucky strike where the researchers were at the right place at the right time. They first believed it to be a whale or a sunfish, but realized that it was in fact a leatherback sea turtle when they got close.

This was considered incredible, and was the first sighting of a sea turtle in Norwegian waters in almost 30 years.

About a year later, on August 18 2022, a new leatherback sea turtle was spotted in Norway. This time by a whale safari boat outside of Stø on Langøya in Vesterålen.

Both the safari guides as well as the tourists were stunned to see a real leatherback sea turtle eating jellyfish just outside of Stø, and they were able to observe it for about 15 minutes before it dove down into the ocean.

Also read: The best time for a whale watching safari in Norway.

Stø harbor is a small harbor in a fishing village
Stø harbor. Photo by Blue Elf / CC BY-SA 2.5.

However, with the exception of these two, we have to go back to 1992 to get to the previous leatherback sea turtle sighing.

Why the leatherback sea turtles even come to Norway

It is believed that the leatherback sea turtles that come to Norway do so by following the Gulf stream from America to Norway. They probably follow the food, and stay in Norway for a short while to snack on the many jellyfish in the ocean here.

The leatherback sea turtle can swim incredibly fast, so it’s likely that more sea turtles have been swimming along the Norwegian coastline in the last few years without anyone noticing.

Could climate change make the sea turtles come to Norway more often?

Leatherback sea turtles typically prefer to stay in tropic waters where it’s much warmer than the ocean in Norway, but rising sea temperatures could very well make these large turtles want to visit Norway more often than earlier.

Not only is the warmer waters going to make it more suitable for them to be here, but it’s also likely to cause an increase in their favorite good, the jellyfish.

You might consider the fact that two of the three most recent sighting of leatherback sea turtles have happened in the last few years as a good indication that they are becoming more common in Norway.

That said, I doubt we will begin to see leatherback sea turtles as a common species in the Norwegian ocean or in the fjords anytime soon.

Jellyfish is the favorite food for leatherback sea turtles. Photo published with permission.

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