A project of MECA and ESO in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.
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Masirah Island is the nesting site of one of the two largest loggerhead nesting populations in the world. Initial studies of this population in the late 1970's by Dr. Perran Ross and Ministry of Environment Rangers, first identified the size and global significance of this population. The primary purpose of this 3-5 year satellite tagging project is to determine clutch frequency which will help better assess population size and fecundity, and to determine inter and post nesting movements which will help identify potential interactions with Indian Ocean fisheries and vulnerabilites to other threats. This project will also add and expand upon post nesting satellite telemetry data from 2008 to identify range countries with whom collaboration will be necessary to fully protect this nesting population while on its foraging grounds.
Each turtle in the 2011 tagging programme was fitted with with a 'Wildlife Computers' MK10 transmitter and a conventional flipper tag. Tissue samples were also collected and archived for future DNA analysis. For those turtles that successfully nested, a location system was used as so that the team can return later in the season and determine how many of the turtles' eggs successfuly hatched. The tagging team was on site at the very beginning of the nesting season to catch the first nesters emerging from the sea for this year. The tag unit uses a GPS receiver and is specifically configured to give precise information of the location of the turtle whenever it comes ashore, as an essential piece of information that will help to reveal the nesting frequency of the turtle through the season. Over the long term the information from this work will be integrated with counting of nests from beach surveys to help estimate the total number of female loggerheads nesting at Masirah each year. In addition to deploying satellite tags during this period, the team also took the opportunity to mark each turtle with conventional flipper tags and take tissue samples for archive and later DNA analysis. Successful nests of these turtles were also marked with a hidden location system, and the team will return to these sites after the incubation period to check on the success of each of the nests.
The project is one component of a larger and more complex conservation strategy, which includes training and capacity-building, strategic conservation planning, standardization of survey methodology to better assess population trends, data management and analysis, and addressing threats such as artficial lighting, coastal development, beach driving, and fisheries bycatch.
This project is a collaborative effort among the Oman Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), Environment Society of Oman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service(USFWS), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA/NMFS). This project was funded by the USFWS Marine Turtle Conservation Fund.