Turtle Tracker: Sea Turtles of the Pacific Tracking Project

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Researcher Wallace J. Nichols (Blue Ocean Institute & the Department of Herpetology, California Academy of Sciences, Baja California Sea Turtle Conservation Network) is working with researchers Javier Alvarado and Carlos Delgado of the University of Michoacan (Mexico) to study the migration of adult female black turtles (AKA east Pacific green turtles, Chelonia mydas) from their nesting beaches in Michoacan, Mexico. For 20 years the researchers and community members at Colola have done a tremendous job protecting the nesting an mating turtles as well as the eggs and hatchlings.

For more information on sea turtles, check out the Sea Turtles Information section of our website.

Turtles Tagged in 1997    |    Turtles Tagged in 1998    |    Turtles Tagged in 1999
Turtles Tagged in 2000    |    General map of Baja, Mexico Study site.


Click on the turtle's name to see a map of its movements.

Turtles Tagged in 2001

CUTZI - Cutzi was outfitted with a transmitter on the 14th of Feb, 2001. Cutzi means "moon"--LUNA in Spanish--in the Purepecha or Tarascan language. She is a 81.7 cm Pacific green turtle (aka black turtle) that was equipped with a transmitter while nesting in Colola, Michoacan (Mexico). Recent data show that she has remained in the nesting region. Black turtles are typically on a 2 week cycle with regard to nesting, so Cutzi may be nesting one more time before migrating back to her feeding grounds.

SABRINA - Sabrina, named after the daughter of our collaborator Carlos Delgado (University of Michoacan), was outfitted with a transmitter on the 27th of Feb, 2001. She was outfitted with the transmitter after nesting at night on the Colola beach. Sabrina is a 66.6 cm Pacific green turtle (aka black turtle) that was equipped with a transmitter while nesting in Colola, Michoacan (Mexico). The Colola, Michoacan community has been very supportive of this project, and J. Nichols hopes that the researchers can return their generosity with some interesting new information about the turtles that nest in their back yard!

PAULINA - Paulina was outfitted with a transmitter on the 2nd of March, 2001. She was outfitted with the transmitter after nesting at night on the Colola beach. Paulina is a 78 cm Pacific green turtle (aka black turtle) that was equipped with a transmitter while nesting in Colola, Michoacan (Mexico). The Colola, Michoacan community has been very supportive of this project, and J. Nichols hopes that the researchers can return their generosity with some interesting new information about the turtles that nest in their back yard!

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In 2000, Researcher Wallace J. Nichols worked with the Coastal Conservation Foundation and the Centro Regional de Investigacions Pesqueras-Ensenda to continue the Sea Turtles of Baja Project as part of a joint effort to determine the movements of marine turtles in the Pacific Ocean.

GATA - "Gata" is a 310 lb east Pacific green turtle released on July 9, 2000 near Punta del Gato, Bahia Magdalena. This is the largest green turtle ever caught by our team in this region. The recent transmissions for Gata have been inconclusive regarding her whereabouts. Last researchers knew, she was still in Bahia Magdalena...not the best place to be a big green turtle.

MAXIMILIANO - "Maximiliano" (aka max) is a juvenile (88 lb) loggerhead released on July 27, 2000 in the open Pacific off Bahia Magdalena, BCS. This turtle was named by the winner of the sea turtle conservation art contest in Puerto San Carlos. Max has slowly made his way south along the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur.

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Turtles Tagged in 1999

YAMILET - On the 16th of March our research team released another loggerhead sea turtle with a satellite transmitter attached to her carapace off of the coast off Santa Rosaliita, Baja California Mexico. This turtle was named "Yamilet" after the daughter of the Mexican fisherman who caught her (Guillermo Murillo) and is a large, 240 lb female loggerhead. This turtle also has an honorary Japanese name "Heiwa Ryokoosha" - translated in English as "Peace Traveler". The name was provided by the Turtle Club at E.H. Green School in Cincinnati, Ohio with help from a Japanese exchange student.

Yamilet has continued her westward ways, traveling more than 1500 km, and seems to be in the same groove (aka "corridor") that Lupita and Adelita were in and continues to be headed steadily west. Researchers tracked Adelita all the way to Japan and Lupita for several months before we lost her signal. When one compares the tracks and the data it's clear that the similarities between the tracks are no coincidence. Yamilet, once she decided to go west, has kept almost on pace with Adelita's historical migration and has passed Lupita's westwardmost location. After a similar amount of time Yamilet has traveled approximately the same distance in the same direction as Adelita and Lupita.

Yamilet is currently hanging out in the middle of the Pacific in an area known as the North Pacific Transition Zone (NPTZ). The NPTZ is an area where the surface currents are weak and where convergence fronts are common. Along these convergence areas, organisms such as jellyfish, are common--turtle food. Yamilet may still be refueling in this area and moving slowly with the weak currents

CARLA - "Carla Guadelupe" is a juvenile loggerhead who was captured and released on 25 July 1999 near the mouth of Bahia Magdalena, in the Pacific Ocean. This turtle was named after the daughter of the fisherman (now a school teacher), Javier Miramontes, who captured a turtle in the same location five years ago that had a Japanese flipper tag. He gave us the tag this summer after carrying it around on his key chain since 1994. Thanks Javier! Carla, Javier's daughter, is a 12 year old "A" student with an interest in studying Marine Biology and English. This year she competed on a team from San Carlos, BCS in a statewide knowledge bowl, and won. A budding turtle biologist???

Dr. Nichols has been receiving high quality location points for Carla, after almost 4 months of silence! After initially moving west after her release, Carla seems to be making her way back towards Baja--just in time for the reproductive season of her favorite food, pelagic red crabs. It will be interesting to see if the other juvenile loggerheads do the same.

URASHIMA - "Urashima Taro" is a juvenile loggerhead who was captured in the Pacific Ocean outside of Bahia Magdalena and released on 25 July 1999. This turtle is named after a young fisherman in a Japanese folk story who travels with a sea turtle to a beautiful, enchanting undersea world where he spends several years. When he returns to the land, as his misses his home, he finds that 300 years have passed and that no one remembers him. It strikes me that this story echoes that of the loggerheads' developmental migrations from Japan to Baja California and around the Pacific Ocean. The young loggerheads returning to Japan as adults after 30 years or so. However, when they return to Japan they will find that unlike Urashima they haven't been forgotten!

Urashima Taro, a turtle that we feared lost, has send a shred of a signal, indicating that the turtle, or at least its transmitter is still about. Chances are that the turtle has been spending extra time along the foraging on the bottom, basking less and has escaped the orbiting eye of the satellite as it passes overhead. Urashima Taro appears to be safely offshore (some 150 km) at the moment.

HASEKURA - "Hasekura" is a juvenile loggerhead turtle released off the coast of Bahia Magdalena on 17 August 1999. She is named after the Japanese explorer Captain Hasekura Tsunenaga. Captain Tsunenaga built a ship in 1613 and sailed in 1614 from Sendai, Japan to Mexico. He crossed via Mexico City to Veracruz and then sailed across the Atlantic to Spain. From Spain he travelled to Rome to meet the Pope. Then in 1619 he turned around and sailed all the way back home to Sendai. Sea turtles had established the Japan-Mexico connection long before Captain Tsunenaga, but history remembers him for his transoceanic sailing. Currently, Hasekura is cruising along off the coast of Isla Magdalena.

SABINA - "Sabina" is a juvenile black turtle that we captured approximately 20 miles offshore Bahia Magdalena in the Pacific. She was release 6 August 1999. The turtle was basking in a mat of algae (Macrocystis) when caught and represents the first pelagic juvenile black turtle tracked by our research group. "Sabina" is named after our good friend who has worked for many years at the Center for Coastal Studies in Puerto San Carlos, BCS.

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In 1998, in addition to a loggerhead and a Pacific green turtle, the project expanded to include a leatherback satllite tagged in the Pacific ocean on the Kai Islands of Indonesia.

MARISOL - Marisol is an adult female black turtle (related to the green turtle). She was satellite tagged and released in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California on 23 November 1998. If you check out her map, you will see that Marisol is cruising out of the bay and heading in the direction of the S. Mexican nesting beaches in Michoacan. The black turtle nesting season in Michoacan extends through January/February.

Marisol headed to the beaches to nest like Xaviera did last year. Update: 2/4/99 - She appears to have successfully arrived at the Michaocan nesting beaches, although we have no reports of her nesting. The loss transmission may be caused by one of several things: she is now feeding and has rubbed the antenna off, she has been mating and the transmitter has been abraded, or some human-related incident. Marisol is the third turtle we have tracked from Baja California to Michoacan nesting beaches and we are very pleased with the tracking results.

LUPITA - This female subadult loggerhead is the first sea turtle of the 1998 project. Lupita is a 158 lb. loggerhead that was released with a satellite transmitter near Santa Rosaliita, Baja Californina, Mexico. She is the first of three turtles begin tracking this summer. This turtle is truly in the ocean wilderness and probably encounters only the rare fishing boat. Still, the nets and hooks of tuna and shark fishermen are a threat as we have seen in the past. We'll watch and learn from this turtle and hopefully stick with her for the rest of the year.

In coopertion with Chris Starbird, Dr. Nichols has begun an effort to study the movement of leatherback turtles feeding in the Kai Islands, Indonesia. Chris has worked in Indonesia with subsistence turtle hunters for several years. Using radio and satellite telemetry we hope to learn more about these turtles as they feed on abundant Scyphomedusae in the area. We also hope that the work will lead to further conservation and educational efforts.

TURTLE 01085 - Turtle 01085 is a mature female leatherback. She was tagged on October 31, 1998. Researchers came across her as she was nesting near Kai Kecil on the Kai Islands, Indonesia. Based on these positons this turtle moved approximately 6km to the NW immeditely after she was tagged. Turtle 01085's last signal was from an inland location (a village on a the island). Researchers are currently investigating the whereabouts of the transmitter, and hope that it simply fell off the turtle and was picked up on the beach. General map of Kai Islands, Indonesia Study site.

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During August and September of 1997, researcher Wallace J. Nichols, the Coastal Conservation Foundation and the Centro Regional de Investigacions Pesqueras-Ensenda began this project as part of a joint effort to determine the movements of marine turtles in the Pacific Ocean. So far, an adult female black turtle and a subadult female loggerhead turtle have been captured and tagged.

XIOMARA - This female subadult loggerhead was captured in early Sept, 1997 approximately 12 miles offshore of Baja California Sur, Mexico. Xiomara weighed 89 lbs and was released on Sept 10, 1997 from Punta Abreojos. After hanging around the general area of her capture, she seems to be moving south to a possible feeding area.

XAVIERA - Xaviera is an adult female black turtle (related to the green turtle) weighing 208 lbs. She was captured near Juncalito, Baja California Sur in early August, 1997. Xaviera was released on August 11, 1997 from Bahia Juncalito near Isla Mestiza. She has nested on the southwestern coast of Mexico at a known black turtle nesting beaches. Her satellite tag has been recovered and will be placed on another turtle. You can still see her movements from capture to nesting, but no new points can be added.

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Major support for the project comes from Earthwatch, Wallace Research Foundation, Cooperativa Pesquera Punta Abreojos, School for Field Studies, Chelonian Institute, Grupo Ecologico Antares, Oceanic Research Foundation, T & E, Field Life (Japan), American Museum of Natural History, Fulbright-Garcia Robles Foundation, Marshall Foundation, USFWS, SEMARNAP, Sycamore Junior High School, E.H. Greene School.

Thanks to Withman College students, One World WorkForce and their volunteers for help in the field with the most recent phase of this project, Guillermo Murillo who caught the turtle, fishermen in Santa Rosaliita for boat support, Oscar Pedrin for Mexican research permit help, Marcos Blanco for epoxy advice and especially biologists Antonio and Bety Resendiz for pulling it together.