The NOAA Fisheries Service Galveston Laboratory's mission to provide scientific information is three-fold. First, the laboratory seeks to provide information for the management of recreational and commercial fishery species. Second, it provides scientific information for characterizing habitats for fishery species. Third, the laboratory works towards the conservation of endangered sea turtles, as well as other marine life, the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Caribbean, and the southeastern U.S. Atlantic. The Galveston Laboratory is made up of three different research branches: Fishery Management, Fishery Ecology, and Protected Species.
Located on the site of the Historic Fort Crockett, the NOAA Fisheries Service Galveston Laboratory is only one block away from the Gulf of Mexico. Fishery research began at the fort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1950. The laboratory is the only federal fisheries laboratory to the west of the Mississippi River along the gulf. A high-quality system delivers up to fifty thousand gallons of seawater daily, and supplies water to large tanks, raceways, and aquaria for experiments on marine and estuarine organisms. This seawater system is the most extensive and largest federally operated seawater system in the country's southeastern region.
The Galveston Laboratory takes up around fifty-five thousand square feet of administrative and research space that shared with the Texas Institute of Oceanography and Texas A&M University. The laboratory is equipped with two sea turtle research facilities, which have been focused on the Kemp's Ridley since 1978. This the country's only federal facility dedicated to the rearing of sea turtles. The National Marine Fisheries Service has been part of an international Sea Turtle recover program since 1978.
The NOAA sea turtle research facility is situated on the campus' southwest corner, along with the Texas Mammal Stranding Network. Visitors are only allowed to explore the facility through a scheduled tour that takes place every Thursday, which can be scheduled by calling the laboratory. Tours of the sea turtle facility meet in the main part of campus, followed by a short walk to the facility. These tours also fill up quickly due to their large popularity, so it's recommended to make a reservation for a tour date several months in advance.
The free tours of the sea turtle facility at the NOAA Fisheries Service Galveston Laboratory are led by volunteers who possess extensive backgrounds in fields related to marine biology or turtles. Tours are also conducted based on the availability of the volunteers. For safety reasons, children must be at least six years old to tour the sea turtle building.
Guests are allowed to visit the facility as often as they like as long they schedule a tour. Visitors are allowed to bring their cameras and take photographs of the sea turtles. Holding a sea turtle, however, is not allowed. Visitors are advised not to feed the turtles, as well as not to stick their fingers into tanks or try to manipulate or lure the turtles. The turtles can bite, rather effectively too.
4700 Avenue U, Galveston, Texas, Phone: 409-766-3500