Kemp's Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The Kemp's Ridley is the smallest of the sea turtles, with the carapace (shell) rarely exceeding 74 cm long. The carapace of adult Kemp's Ridley is broad and light gray-olive in color. Head is large with strongly ridged and powerful jaws. The carapace usually has five pairs of scales (costal scutes).

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Records from south and west coasts of England and Wales, northern Scotland and western Ireland.

Global distribution



Generally prefer shallow, inshore waters less than 60 meters deep.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 74 cm in length and weigh around 45 kg.
  • Light grey-olive colour shell.
  • Large head with strong powerful jaws.
  • Usually five pairs of scales (costal scutes).

Additional information

Populations of Kemp's Ridley are threatened with decline as a result of intensive predation on eggs by local people and by coyotes, fishing for juveniles and adults, slaughter of nesting adults for meat, and incidental catch by trawlers. Nesting grounds are also threatened through destruction by humans.


  1. Anonymous, 1999ii. Marine turtles. Grouped Species Action Plan, 2001-07-09

  2. Brongersma, L.D., 1972. European Atlantic Turtles. Leiden. Zoologische Verhandlingen.

  3. Costello, M.J., Bouchet, P., Boxshall, G., Emblow, C. & Vanden Berghe, E., 2004. European Register of Marine Species [On-line].,

  4. Crothers, J.H. (ed.), 1966. Dale Fort Marine Fauna. London: Field Studies Council.

  5. Marine Turtle Specialist Group, 1996. Lepidochelys kempii. In: IUCN 2006. [On-line].,

  6. National Research Council, 1990. Decline in Sea Turtles: Causes and Prevention. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.

  7. Penhallurick, R.D., 1990. Turtles off Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and Devonshire. Truro: Dyllansow Pengwella.


  1. Marine Environmental Monitoring, 2018. Marine Turtles. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  2. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  3. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-04-23


This review can be cited as:

Harris, R. 2007. Lepidochelys kempii Kemp's Ridley turtle. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 23-04-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 03/09/2007