For the first time, a University of Exeter team has successfully monitored the movements of an entire sub-population of marine turtles. Their success confirms that these turtles can be closely monitored through satellite tracking, which can help predict migrations and implement conservation measures.
Dr. Lucy Hawkes, lead author and University of Exeter PhD student describes the migration of a population of loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic Ocean over a ten-year span (1998-2008). She found that the turtles rarely leave the waters of the U.S. but they still manage to travel thousands of miles every year.
Monitoring of adult females nesting along the coast from North Carolina to Georgia showed that they forage in warm, shallow waters along the U.S. eastern seaboard. This also showed that the turtles who travel as far north as New Jersey to forage have to travel back down south to avoid the cold winters.
Hawkes explains, “This is the first time, to our knowledge, that anyone has been able to say precisely where and when you would find an entire sub-population of marine turtles. This is incredibly useful for conservation as it tells us exactly where to put our efforts. We knew that satellite tracking was a valuable tool, but this study highlights how powerful it is — without it we would still be guessing where these beautiful but vulnerable creatures live.”
Dr. Brendan Godley, leader of the University of Exeter team, has been monitoring sea turtles via satellite since 1997. He explains that “By attaching small satellite tracking devices to turtles’ shells, we can accurately monitor their whereabouts. Working with biologists and conservation groups around the world we are starting to build a much clearer picture of the lives of marine turtles, including their migrations, breeding and feeding habits. These findings form a valuable resource for conservation groups, who are concerned with protecting turtles from threats posed by fishing, pollution and climate change.”
Copyright © 2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC