In August, researchers with the STSL, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attached satellite transmitters to the backs of five loggerhead turtles after they finished nesting on beaches within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge near Melbourne, Florida. In addition, several loggerheads are being followed off the gulf coast of Florida.
On the evening of August 19, researchers and STSL staff were on the beach searching the northern segment of the Carr Refuge for nesting loggerhead turtles. Of the three turtles encountered during the evening, two were selected to be held for satellite transmitter attachment. The first was encountered at 10 p.m. and the second at 3 a.m. on the morning of August 20. Reseachers worked to attach a transmitter to the first turtle during the night and then moved to the second turtle as the sun began to rise over the Atlantic.
The process of the transmitter attachment and release of the loggerhead made a great news story for several TV station crews and newspaper reporters. The press began arriving at first light and stayed until the turtle safely returned to the sea. TV stations that were represented included WESH Channel 2 (NBC Affiliate), WFTV Channel 9 (ABC Affiliate), Central Florida News Channel 13 (CNN Affiliate) and FOX 35. The story was also covered in newspapers such as the Vero Beach Press Journal, Florida Today and the Gainesville Sun.
The sea turtles that nest in the United States primarily deposit their eggs along the southeast coast, especially in Florida, but they regularly travel in waters all along the east coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Researchers have studied the U.S. population of loggerheads for years, but it is still a mystery where they spend a majority of their lives. Where will the turtles being tracked this year eventually travel? Through the use of satellite telemetry, researchers hope to answer that question in order to better protect the turtles throughout their range.
If you have been following previously tracked turtles on the STSL web page, then you might recognize the following names: Rhonda and Endora. These two green sea turtles were part of a 1997 study looking at the migration movements of Florida green turtles conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service. If you adopted either of these turtles a couple of years ago, then we have some good news; both turtles were encountered nesting this summer in the Archie Carr Refuge!
STSL is also involved with researchers who are using satellite technology to follow the migrations of green turtles from Bermuda developmental habitat to distant adult feeding grounds. The research is part of the Bermuda Turtle Project and is an effort to learn more about the movements of green turtles away from Bermuda and into the next phase of their life cycle. The green turtles that live in Bermuda waters arrive after hatching on distant nesting beaches and living at sea, probably for several years. After growing up on the Bermuda grass flats here, these same turtles depart for foreign feeding grounds where they mature. It seems clear from tag returns that the Caribbean is the next destination for green turtles that grow up in Bermuda waters.
Last year a green turtle named Bermudiana was followed as she traveled in a near straight line, covering the distance between Bermuda and the Dominican Republic, about 1,500 km, in one month! Regularly updated maps depicting the movements of the latest turtles tagged in Bermuda can also be viewed for free on the STSL web page. The tracking project is being partially funded by the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) and is part of a collaborative research project of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, the Bermuda Division of Fisheries and CCC. Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan coordinate the research on behalf of CCC.
Through the Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program, researchers and STSL hope people take a greater interest in the plight of threatened and endangered sea turtles. For more information about this free program or to adopt a satellite-tagged turtle, call the STSL at (800) 678-7853 or e-mail us at email@example.com