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Marine Life & Conservation

Tags on leatherback turtles reveal by-catch hotspots

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A study using satellite data from tagged leatherback turtles has identified possible “by-catch hotspots” in the Pacific Ocean.

By tracking 135 turtles, researchers highlighted areas where the critically endangered animals were likely to come into contact with fishing vessels.

The authors hoped the findings could be used to help cut the number of turtles accidentally killed as by-catch.

The paper appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

The species, scientifically known as Dermochelys coriacea, is globally listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

However, conservationists have identified a number of distinct populations in the world’s various oceans. Within the Pacific, the two populations – eastern and western – are considered to be critically endangered.

For this study, data was collated from numerous projects between 1992 and 2008, explained lead author John Roe from the University of North California’s Pembroke campus.

“To really get an idea about where the leatherbacks go, you have got to have turtles tagged from multiple locations,” he said.

“So it took getting just about everyone who has put a satellite tag on a leatherback for other research purposes to collaborate to get a sample size large enough to allow us to answer that question.”

Dr Roe and his colleagues from a range of US and Costa Rican institutes then integrated the turtle location data with similar data of where the longline fishing activity in the Pacific Ocean was highest.

“We used that data to overlay with the data of the areas the turtles were using in order to figure out where the turtle hotspots matched with the fisheries hotspots to identify the areas where by-catch was most likely to occur.”

Writing in their paper, the team observed: “For East Pacific nesters, an area of potential risk occurs along the primary leatherback migration corridor between Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands.

“For the West Pacific population, …the greatest by-catch was predicted to occur adjacent to nesting beaches in north-west New Guinea.”

They added that the analysis represented the largest compilation of data of its kind.

However, Dr Roe said that more tagging data was required in order to establish a more detailed picture.

“We need to target these areas to see if the turtle persistently use these areas over and over again,” he said.

“That would provide really useful information in the management of by-catch because the fisheries authorities would have that knowledge and adjust their fishing efforts accordingly.”

He added: “We are just trying to highlight some areas to make it easier to look for these needles in a haystack.

“The idea now is to try and get some more refined information in those targeted areas but we now know where and when to look, and where to concentrate our efforts.”

 

Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news

 

Marine Life & Conservation

Join us in supporting Dive Project Cornwall Crowdfunder Project

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Do you have a moment to help protect our oceans?

We’re on a mission and have partnered with DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL to help protect our oceans for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL is a unique EDUCATION and EXPERIENCE initiative, reaching over 3,000 schools with their Ocean Education Programme, inspiring the next generation to protect our oceans for everyone to cherish and enjoy.

At the heart of the project is a competition for 400 lucky teenagers to win the EXPERIENCE of a lifetime. They will take the learning from the classroom straight to the shores of Porthkerris on a 6-day, life changing trip where they will learn to scuba dive and be taught the importance of marine conservation. They will become ‘Ocean Influencers’ for the future.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL needs our help.

Can you join us with a gift to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL?

Whether it’s £5 or £50, a gift from you to the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL Crowdfunder Project will help their vision of protecting our oceans through the innovative experience designed for school children.

Will you join us and pledge to support 400 lucky teenagers learn from and EXPERIENCE the ocean like never before and give them an EDUCATION they can use to inspire others, not forgetting the memories that will last a lifetime?

For more information, you can read the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL story HERE.

Help us create the next generation of Ocean Influencers with a donation to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL and ensure our oceans (and planet) are protected for the future.

WWW.CROWDFUNDER.CO.UK/P/DIVE-PROJECT-CORNWALL

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Marine Life & Conservation

Spring jellyfish blooms bring turtles to UK shores

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Marine Conservation Society’s wildlife sightings project asks beachgoers to share their discoveries and contribute to research

The Marine Conservation Society’s long-running wildlife sightings project focuses on two key species which arrive on UK shores: jellyfish and, as a result, turtles. Both species are vital in supporting ocean biodiversity and are indicators of climate change while being at risk from its impacts.

The charity is asking beach and seagoers to share when they spot either of these marine animals to support ongoing research.

During spring and summer, jellyfish arrive in the UK’s warming waters to feed on plankton blooms or, in fact, anything small enough to get caught. To that extent, jellyfish feed not only on plankton, but also the array of eggs and larvae of fish, crustaceans, starfish and molluscs which rely on plankton as a stage of reproduction.

With healthy fish stocks and rich biodiversity, jellyfish quickly become part of an effective food chain. Everything from tuna to turtles will feed on jellyfish of various sizes, so the population is well controlled. Supported by a rich and diverse ocean ecosystem, jellyfish link the microscopic world of plankton to larger marine animals and the ocean around them.

Jellyfish are especially appealing for marine turtles. Six of the world’s seven marine turtle species have been spotted in UK seas as a result of jellyfish blooms in spring and summer.

The largest sea turtle, and the most common in UK seas, is the leatherback which has a ‘vulnerable’ conservation status. Reporting sightings of these incredible creatures will support the Marine Conservation Society and others in understanding their movements, potential threats and how to better protect them.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Project Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“For more than 17 years, beachgoers across the UK have been contributing to scientific research by sharing their wildlife sightings with us. It’s a key part of our work and plays a vital role in better understanding and protecting our ocean.”

In 2014, with partners from the University of Exeter, the Marine Conservation Society published the first paper from the survey data, confirming key information about UK jellyfish and including the first distribution maps of the surveyed species.

Since the 2014 paper, the wildlife sightings project has recorded notable events such as massive and extensive annual blooms of barrel jellyfish and several summers of Portuguese Man o’ War mass strandings.

The charity continues to run its wildlife sightings project to see what happens to the distribution and frequency of mass jellyfish blooms over time. The data will help to explore any links jellyfish blooms have with big-picture factors such as climate change.

Jellyfish can be spotted year-round in UK seas, but larger blooms are more likely to appear in spring, lasting through until autumn. Jellyfish sighting records from 2021 suggest that compass jellyfish are the most common around UK shores, making up 36% of reported sightings.

Jellyfish species Percentage of sightings reported
Compass jellyfish 36%
Moon jellyfish 17%
Lion’s mane jellyfish 15%
Barrel jellyfish 14%
Blue jellyfish 9%
Portuguese Man o’ War 6%
Mauve stinger 2%
By the wind sailor 1%

For more information on how to identify jellyfish and turtles, and to report a sighting, please visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website.

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