sea turtles

Robot sea turtles for ocean Safety

Robot sea turtles for ocean Safety

I have only one question: Will these cute robot turtles come up to shore every year to lay eggs that will turn into cute little robot turtle hatchlings?

I have to remind myself sometimes that this blog is named after a sea turtle and that my turtle overlords demand a post or two once in a while that propitiates them.

Robotic sea turtles, on the other hand, can do all sorts of things. They can find out where a pipeline or a ship hull is damaged. Or the extent of an oil spill, or locate bodies in the wake of a disaster.

via Robot sea turtles could help keep the ocean safe and clean | Grist.

The Olive Ridley Arrives in BC

The Olive Ridley Arrives in BC

No, not me, the sea turtle! When this blog migrated to BC in 2008, it surely didn’t expect the sea turtle it was named after to follow suit, but here we are…

A species of sea turtle never before seen in B.C. waters arrived on Wickaninnish Beach this week.

Parks Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Vancouver Aquarium worked together to confirm the event as the first-ever sighting of an olive ridley sea turtle in B.C. waters.

“B.C. residents can be proud to learn that we now officially have three sea turtle species in our waters,” stated a media release from the three organizations involved.

via Sea turtle found in Pacific Rim park.

I would quibble with “never before seen”, this is highly unlikely in the many years Canada’s indigenous have made their home on the ocean, and given that turtles tend to stray. It appears this female arrived nearly dead, and died of possible blunt force trauma, which can be caused by many things including propeller hits, boat collisions, etc. Also found, large bits of plastic inside her stomach, which is all too common.

So, farewell, dear friend, you strayed a bit too far north for your tastes, not as far as Alaska, but far enough.


Tuesdays with Turtles – Right Flipperedness Edition

Across a population studied by scientists, more turtles preferred to use their right rear flipper rather than their left when laying eggs.The result, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, is the first time a species of turtle has found to prefer one limb over another.The discovery adds to growing evidence that even lower vertebrates prefer to use one side of the body more often.Such preference is known by scientists as a “lateralised functional behaviour”, and it usually indicates that an animal's brain function is also lateralised, with one side of the brain dominating control of certain tasks.

via BBC – Earth News – Turtles are ‘right-flippered’.

Ha, just when you thought Tuesdays with Turtles was gone, it is Tuesday (here in Canada) and a sea turtle post. Turns out, leatherbacks, the biggest of ths sea turtles and critically endangered tend to be right flippered while on land and laying eggs. A slight predilection to right sidedness runs all the way down to reptiles. It is 54%-46%, which does not seem like much, but the report indicates that among humans, it is the same once you control for a cultural right hand bias!

Anyway, got to love those sexy beasts, even if they’re right flippered, right Ned?


Tuesdays with Turtles – Wednesday Hook Edition

WWF – Fishing Technology That’s Letting Turtles Off the Hook –

Turns out that a small change in hook design can save a lot of turtles from getting caught in longline hooks. But the story’s not really about the shape of the hook. I’ve written about this before. The issue is rarely one of technology. The solutions have been developed and exist because a lot of work has gone into developing technological solutions. Implementation on the ground (or sea!) has lagged because it is much harder to effect change where it counts when you attempt to impose technology in a top-down fashion. Small scale fishers (new english here, to avoid the whole fishermen/fisherwoman/fisherperson nonsense, take out the gender specific suffix to every occupation describing verb! – Try it, it’s not weldman, or plumbwoman!) are in a world of hurt with declining fish stocks and widespread fisheries piracy by the so called “developed world”. Without developing and implementing the solution with the full participation of the people who have the most potential to be affected, the change will not be successful.

What did the WWF do differently this time?

Together with fishermen we are building a culture for sustainable fishing practices that will guarantee fish stocks in the long term

They emphasized the people, not the solution. And the results were great, 90% reduction in turtle catch, >95% of the turtles caught were released safely, and the fish yields were not affected. Everyone wins, right?

Good stuff. Those turtles are still endangered and we’ll run out of wild edible fish in 50 years, but hey, more like this and there’s a bit of hope.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Triumphant Return

So, blogging has been light this summer as Olive Ridley’s partner made her way to Canada and is settling in. Also, it is summer in BC and beautiful as hell, so the prospect of sitting down and typing on a computer with brains that are only half working, well, ain’t so hot! Also, Canada is just a much calmer place than the U.S. As I looked back at my many posts, most of them are bitter fulminations against American politics or the various shenanigans of the Emperor. Anyway, I am not under his rule any more, and while he’s gutting the Endangered Species Act as we speak, he will be history soon.

While Canadian policy debates are equally interesting, they are generally civil in comparison, except the occasional kerfluffle where old white men want their female opponents to go back to making tea, charming…

Anyway, I felt the blogging itch again and as always, it’s nice to get back with a story about turtles.

Researchers say they have figured out why sea turtles that normally feed and breed in shallow water or on land will, very rarely, go deep sea diving: the reptiles are on reconnaissance.

Sea Turtles Dive to Depths for Reconnaissance : Discovery News

Leatherbacks have amazing diving capabilities and can get up to a kilometre below the surface. Why? for food, of course! More precisely, the promise of future food. Turns out that jellyfish (or jellyfish like animals) hang out in the deep during day time and surface at night. Leatherbacks go looking for them during the daytime down in the deeps so they can get them on the surface for dinner. It’s akin to you taking a leisurely walk around downtown looking for the perfect dinner spot.

Interesting. As always, very fascinating and sexy creatures, and critically endangered.

Expect more regularly scheduled blogging just in time for the late summer sweeps!

100s of turtles die in Andhra Pradesh

  I have written about turtle excluder devices (TEDs) and how they save adult turtles lives previously. So, this story is an utterly avoidable tragedy brought about by the lack of implementation of laws regulating the use of TEDs.

The death of hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles along the Paravada coast in December 2007 had occurred due to failure of the trawlers to install the mandatory turtle excluder device. Lab tests conducted at Andhra University and Veterinary Biological Research Institute, Hyderabad ruled out the largescale death of the endangered species due to consumption of toxic contents discharged by industries located nearby or on account of rise in the seawater temperature.“We didn’t find any abnormal pollution levels. The washing ashore of carcasses was not a localised phenomena as dead turtles were found all along the coast up to Srikakulam during the year-end – the breeding season,” P.J. Vijaykar, Divisional Forest Officer told The Hindu on Wednesday.

The Hindu : Andhra Pradesh / Visakhapatnam News : Olive Ridley death riddle solved

Andhra Pradesh was supposed to be a success story with the TEDs. This from an article by Kartik Shanker, one of SSTCN’s founding members…

In India, the parallel cases of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh demonstrate how a TED programme should not (and should) be implemented. In Orissa, the polarization between the fishing community and conservationists has prevented the introduction of TEDs, while in Andhra Pradesh, TEDs were introduced by the state Fisheries Department with appropriate demonstration and training programmes (see Shanker and Pilcher, 2003).

So, this occurrence in Andhra Pradesh is quite disheartening and speaks to the large gaps that lie between legislation, policy and implementation in India.

Cross Posted at SSTCN

Tags: , ,

Casuarina plantations and the Olive Ridley

The Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network was featured in the Hindu today.

Sea turtle lovers are concerned at the disturbance caused to turtle nesting habitats along the Tamil Nadu coastline, where casuarinas have been raised by the State Forest Department.The sea turtle’s egg-laying season began a month ago. Volunteers of the Chennai-based Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) had written to the World Bank stating that the Forest Department should reverse the damage done.The SSTCN also wanted the Bank to provide funds for taking up transplantation work.Akila Balu, co-ordinator, SSTCN, said after the tsunami, the World Bank funded an Emergency Tsunami Reconstruction Project (ETRP) in Tamil Nadu.Under this programme, the State Forest Department had taken up the work of raising casuarina plantations to act as a bio-shield on the coastline. The casuarina saplings were planted right up to the high-tide line. In the process, it eliminated large stretches of sea turtle nesting habitat.Department’s defenceA senior Forest Department official said casuarinas had not been raised all along the State coastline.Adequate space had been provided between each sapling through which the turtles could enter the sand and lay eggs.The ETRP is a conservation-oriented programme, and so far the department has not received any complaints that the casuarina plantation had affected egg-laying of the Olive Ridleys, the official said.“In most of the areas, the saplings are not touching the high-tide line. If we plant closer to the line, the saplings will not survive. On the whole, the plantation will surely not affect the egg-laying turtles,” the official added.

The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : “Casuarina plantations affecting turtle nesting habitats”

To find out more, visit the SSTCN website.

cross-posted at the Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network

Blogged with Flock

Tags: , , ,

Small-Scale Fisheries Bycatch Jeopardizes Loggerheads


This is almost a 1000 juveniles killed in a year in Baja California alone. The authors mention that over 99% of all fisherpeople are employed in small scale fisheries, which surprised me.

PLoS ONE: Small-Scale Fisheries Bycatch Jeopardizes Endangered Pacific Loggerhead Turtles:

Although bycatch of industrial-scale fisheries can cause declines in migratory megafauna including seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, the impacts of small-scale fisheries have been largely overlooked. Small-scale fisheries occur in coastal waters worldwide, employing over 99% of the world’s 51 million fishers. New telemetry data reveal that migratory megafauna frequent coastal habitats well within the range of small-scale fisheries, potentially producing high bycatch. These fisheries occur primarily in developing nations, and their documentation and management are limited or non-existent, precluding evaluation of their impacts on non-target megafauna.

This is a surprising and unexpected finding because you would expect smaller fishing boats to have smaller impacts. I guess smaller scale fishing fleets in Mexico (and other developing nations) have not been targeted for education, awareness and enforcement of turtle safe fishing practices.

The good news from the study is that a major source of mortality has been identified and the authors point to recent efforts to increase awareness in the community about turtle safe fishing. But it will be a long and hard fight to be tackled all over the world.

Now we know where Juvenile sea turtles Hide

You see the hatchlings as they dig out of the nests all small and helpless and make a beeline towards the sea. You see the adult female as she comes back to lay her eggs. You see adult males when you go snorkeling , but the juveniles had kept a low profile, until now…

Sea turtles’ mystery hideout revealed – LiveScience –

Once sea-turtle hatchlings hit the surf, they vanish for up to five years. Where the half-dollar-size tots spend these ‘lost years’ while ballooning to the size of dinner plates has been a mystery, until now.

New research, published in the online edition of the journal Biology Letters, indicates the green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) hide out in the open ocean, where they feast on jellyfish and other marine creatures.

Turns out that they’ve been “hiding out” in the open ocean eating meat to augment their vegetarian adult diet. I have not seen the paper (reference below), but the study was based on an analysis of their shell content. Carbon and Nitrogen isotope analysis was used as a marker for diet and location.

The ‘lost years’ of green turtles: using stable isotopes to study cryptic lifestages

Kimberly J. Reich, Karen A. Bjorndal, Alan B. Bolten

Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, Department of Zoology, PO Box 118525, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA