Fort Fisher, NC  World Turtle Day is May 23, 2023, and it is a great time to Shellabrate at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (NCAFF). Visitors with advanced tickets can join the Shellabration by visiting the five spots in the Aquarium that are home to turtles.   

“We hear from visitors all the time how turtles inspire them, and for staff at the Aquarium that inspiration is important to our conservation mission. This Shellabration is all about awareness of all turtles, many of whom need our protection,” said Karissa Bearer, lead special activities instructor, NCAFF.  

The hope is that by recognizing how valuable turtles are to the ecosystem, Aquarium visitors can take away a greater awareness of how individual actions can make a difference for the turtle species represented in the day-long Shellabration.

Here’s how visitors can play along and win a prize:

  1. Take a shelfie.
  2. Post on your social media pages with hashtag #ShellabrateTurtles.
  3. Show your shelfie to our team outside the Gift Shop.

The shelfie spots include Buzzard Bay, home to the diamondback terrapin, Loggerhead Sea Turtle Conservation, where Pip and Scout take turns splashing, Cape Fear Shoals, the 235,000-gallon habitat where Shelldon, the green sea turtle swims his way into people’s hearts, the outdoor pond, where yellow-bellied slider and eastern river cooter turtles routinely sun themselves on logs and finally, the eastern box turtle habitat, where 13 of these reptiles delight visitors.


Engaging the community in the story of these special animals is at the core of the mission of the Aquarium. Find out more about these ambassador turtles:

  • Diamondback terrapin populations have declined considerably in many parts of their geographic range and are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The greatest threat to the loggerhead sea turtle* is loss of nesting habitat caused by coastal development, predation of nests, and human disturbances (such as coastal lighting and housing developments) that cause disorientations during the emergence of hatchlings. Other major threats include incidental capture in longline fishing, shrimp trawling and pollution. 
  • Green sea turtles* like Shelldon face threats including bycatch in fishing gear, climate change, direct harvest of turtles and eggs, disease, loss and degradation of nesting and foraging habitat, ocean pollution/marine debris, and vessel strikes.
  • Yellow-bellied sliders and eastern river cooters are often spotted in the outdoor pond from the bridge on the Aquarium walkway. They are of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.
  • The eastern box turtle, the official turtle of North Carolina, is a vulnerable species. Habitat destruction has led to a decline of eastern box turtles in their former range. Throughout the past century, the conversion of woodlands and wetlands into agricultural land has extirpated populations where they once existed.

*All sea turtles are threatened or endangered.


  • Refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle — in that order! Say “no” to single-use goods, and find creative ways to reuse products at the end of their life cycle. Choose recycling over trash when possible.
  • Organize or attend a stream, river, lake, beach or other waterway cleanup in your area to preserve aquatic habitats for local species.
  • Share the story of these animals with others. Simply raising awareness about these species can contribute to their overall protection.
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to find out other great ways to support animal conservation. 
  • Find out some important ways you can support sea turtles while visiting the beach at Sea Turtle Conservation.
  • Support SAFE: Sea Turtle

The Aquarium requires advanced tickets. Plan ahead for a “turtlely” awesome celebration by visiting NCAFF Admissions