Spatial distribution patterns of adult male loggerhead sea turtles captured by research trawling in the Southeast US
A project of SCDNR MRD in conjunction with the partners and sponsors detailed below.
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In the past decade, a wealth of knowledge has emerged with respect to satellite telemetry documentation of the spatial distribution patterns for adult male sea turtles of several species. Regarding loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the northern hemisphere, adult males have been tracked following capture at breeding sites in both the NW Atlantic (Arendt et al. 2012a,b) and the Mediterranean Sea (Hays et al. 2010, Schofield et al. 2010) and on neritic foraging grounds off the coast of North Africa (Casale et al. 2013), West Africa (Varo-Cruz et al. 2013), and Japan (Sakamoto et al. 1997, Hatase et al. 2002).
Arendt et al. (2012) documented that 16 of 29 adult male loggerhead sea turtles captured at the Port Canaveral, FL breeding aggregation subsequently emigrated to distant foraging grounds where they became localized in a variety of habitats ranging from shallow, near-shore coastal waters to deeper waters on the middle continental shelf. Most migrant males moved north after breeding, and transit occurred between mid-May and late June. Because this transit coincides with the operational window of an important coastal trawl survey to assess the abundance, demographics, and health of sea turtles off SC, GA, and nFL, we wish to use satellite telemetry with adult male loggerhead sea turtles captured in this research survey to answer the following questions:
1) Are adult male loggerhead sea turtles captured in the trawl survey predominantly migrants or residents?
2) If migrant, do their foraging grounds overlap with those of adult male loggerheads captured in Port Canaveral?
3) If resident, do their foraging grounds overlap with satellite tracks of juvenile loggerhead sea turtles captured in the regional survey?
4) Do the over-wintering locations of adult male loggerheads overlap with known over-wintering locations of adult females and juveniles that use the the same seasonal foraging grounds?
5) Do individual adult male loggerheads use the same foraging grounds in subsequent years?
To answer these questions, we began attaching satellite transmitters to adult male loggerhead sea turtles captured in the coastal trawl survey in 2013. Through 2015, we deployed 11 of 15 transmitters and hope to deploy the last remaining transmitters in 2016.