MPAs Succeed in Protecting Sea Turtles

Written by on March 20, 2012 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law

Emily Tripp
Senior Writer

A new study shows that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are helping sea turtles survive.

The study from an international team of scientists, led by the University of Exeter, explains that MPAs provide an ideal habitat for foraging and protects turtles from the negative aspects of fishing.  The research team found that 35 percent of the world’s green turtles are found within MPAs and 21 percent were found in the most strictly-protected MPAs.  This is a very high percentage considering how little of the ocean is designated as protected.  According to the World Database of Protected Areas (link no longer active), only 0.7 percent of the oceans are protected.

MPAs are areas in the ocean where fishing and other activities are restricted.  The level of protection and regulation varies among MPAs, with the most strictly-protected being managed primarily for science.

The research team collected data on the movement of 145 green turtles from 28 nesting sites, using satellite tracking.  They found that green turtles can travel thousands of miles from their original breeding locations to their feeding grounds.  They also found that older MPAs were more likely to contain turtles.

Green Sea Turtle.  Photo Credit: NOAA.

Green Sea Turtle. Photo Credit: NOAA.

“Our global overview revealed that sea turtles appear in Marine Protected Areas far more than would be expected by chance.  There has been debate over the value of MPAs, but this research provides compelling evidence that they may be effective in providing safe foraging habitats for large marine creatures, such as green turtles,” said Professor Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter’s Center for Ecology and Conservation.

“The satellite tracking work that the University of Exeter has played such a lead role in developing allows us to assess the value of MPAs in a way that would never have previously been possible,” he explained.

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said, “This study unlocks some of the secrets surrounding the life cycle of marine turtles, whose movements have long been a mystery.  The results will mean we will better manage the oceans and protect turtle habitats which are key to helping them survive.”

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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