Category: sea turtles

Tuesdays with Turtles – Archie Carr Edition

Archie Carr is considered the father of modern sea turtle research. And now, there’s a book about him about to come out. It’s called “The Man who Saved Sea Turtles”.

Well, I guess saved is going a little too far. I would have said “postponed the extinction of”, given the imminent extinction of the Pacific leatherback. But hey, forget about the title, I am sure it’s going to be a good book to read.

Oxford University Press: The Man Who Saved Sea Turtles: Frederick R. Davis

Archie Carr, one of the greatest biologists of the twentieth century, played a leading part in finding a new and critical role for natural history and systematics in a post-1950s world dominated by the glamorous science of molecular biology. With the rise of molecular biology came a growing popular awareness of species extinction. Carr championed endangered sea turtles, and his work reflects major shifts in the study of ecology and evolution. A gifted nature writer, his books on the natural history of sea turtles and their habitats in Florida, the Caribbean, and Africa entertained and educated a wide audience. Carr’s conservation ethic grew from his field work as well as his friendships with the fishermen who supplied him with many of the stories he retold so engagingly. With Archie Carr as the focus, The Man Who Saved Sea Turtles explores the evolution of the naturalist tradition, biology, and conservation during the twentieth century.

Tuesdays with Turtles -Thursday Edition – Pacific Leatherbacks in Trouble

Personal Note
I swear, this blog has gone to pot. Either I’ve been too busy at work (yes, that does not explain everything), or I have not been thinking enough. I started this blog so that when I saw something interesting, I would have to think a little bit, and gather some information to write about what I saw/read. Apparently, I don’t read/see any more (which is not true), I don’t think any more (possible), or I am too lazy to spend enough time thinking to throw a coherent blog post together.

This has got to stop, and it stops right now!!
End Personal Note
Back to the topic on hand…

The Pacific Leatherback is in serious trouble and is slated to go extinct soon.

ENN News Network

Experts at the Bellagio Sea Turtle Conservation Initiative have just concluded a conference to save the imperiled Pacific leatherback sea turtle from extinction. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has classified Pacific leatherbacks as critically endangered.

The meeting convened an internationally diverse group of scientists, conservationists, economists, fund-raisers and policy makers. One focus was the development of immediate actions to boost hatchling production of the Western Pacific nesting populations by protecting nests from predation, beach erosion and human consumption on the beaches of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Malaysia. Although there are still hundreds of turtles nesting, with 75 percent in one area on the north coast of Papua (Indonesia), researchers are concerned by new information indicating that the majority of nests laid are not producing hatchlings. Some simple procedures have been developed to improve hatch success, and applying these techniques now may ensure the populations are sustained in the future.

Some radical measures have been suggested, including cloning. Well, highly unlikely. Jurassic Park horrors and ethical dilemmas aside, cloning reptiles ain’t so easy.

What ails the Pacific Leatherback? Their numbers have dropped from 115000 reproductive females to less than 3000. This news release from a 2004 conference has more. But the usual suspects are destruction of nesting habitats, long line fishing, egg poaching, and to a more uncertain degree, climate change.

It’s depressing, I’ve never seen a leatherback, I guess I need to get on the case and see one before they disappear for ever.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Wednesday Edition

Where I’m a day late and a dollar short. It turns out that the Mediterranean sea is awash with plastic and most of the loggerheads there have swallowed plastic bags. So, the next time you’re out looking for loggerhead nests and find one in which all the eggs have been double bagged, do not be surprised! Now. if they start swallowing egg cartons…

Mediterranean drowning in a hidden sea of plastic rubbish – Independent Online Edition > Europe

A recent study of the endangered loggerhead turtle off Spain’s Mediterranean coast found that 75 per cent of them had swallowed plastic bags. Mr Rodriguez said: “We have to understand the sea is not a tip; it will constantly return to us what we throw in.”

Seriously, plastic bags need to go away.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Climate change and nesting patterns

Turns out that in Guyana, nesting patterns are changing. Different types of sea turtles are showing up, and earlier than they used to. The earlier part can be explained by climate change, but the species distribution? I am sure there are other factors involved including habitat loss, poaching, etc. Anyway, interesting story.

Stabroek News

The changing nesting patterns of endangered sea turtles in Guyana, is alerting environmentalists to the impact of climate change on these marine animals.

The shell beaches in Region One have hosted thousands of nesting turtles over the years, and conservationists have been endeavouring to protect the turtles from heavy domestic use and from being traded.

Project Coordinator of the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) Michelle Kalamandeen told Stabroek News recently that climate change is affecting the sea turtle population.

According to Kalamandeen, in the 1960s the Hawksbill (critically endangered) and the Olive-Ridley (endangered) were our main nesting turtles, now the green turtles (endangered) and the leatherbacks (critically endangered) are mostly coming to nest on Guyana’s shores. The Pacific Leatherback is said to be now extinct and the Atlantic Leatherback is facing extinction.

The change in the time period for nesting in Guyana, she said, may also be a significant sign.

Usually sea turtles nest in Guyana from March to August every year. However, for the last three to four years, says Kalamandeen, the nesting pattern has shifted from mid-January to mid-July. This may have a significant impact on the hatchlings as food availability may be an issue for them.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Hatcheries

A little old, but turns out that the WWF is establishing a hatchery for Olive Ridley sea turtles in Orissa.

WWF-India comes with artificial hatchery for Olive Ridley eggs –

Large-scale destruction of Olive Ridley eggs at nesting sites in the State’s coast has prompted WWF-India to come with an artificial hatchery. It would also double up as a hatching protection centre. The artificial hatchery has been established near mouth of Rushikulya river where WWF-India staff have stored a large number of Olive Ridley eggs along with the arrangements for safe hatching. Last month alone, 116 nests were safeguarded and around 13,000 Olive Ridley eggs were stored in the artificial hatchery. Till end of the week, more than 2,000 eggs have hatched, chairman of WWF-India, Orissa State Committee Saroj Kumar Patnaik said.

Hatcheries become necessary when the natural habitat can no longer be protected. The biggest advantage of a hatchery is the fact that once the eggs are relocated, they are now safe from poaching/predation. But, there are some disadvantages including the resources needed, the possible overcrowding effects if the hatcheries are not well designed, etc. Luckily, there are good resources available for building and managing a good hatchery. With the WWF’s funding and experience, I am sure it will be a very well managed hatchery.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Green Turtles Deluged?

I mentioned recently that elevated temperatures from climate could skew sea turtle sex ratios towards females. The featured news article highlights research which speculates that storm surges caused by increased hurricane (they call them cyclones in Austraila and India) intensity from climate change might lead to the flooding of green turtle nests in Florida, hastening their extinction. Why only the greens? Because they nest later than the other turtles and tend to be around during the height of the Atlantic hurricane season.

We know from previous research that loggerhead turtles have been nesting earlier because of elevated temperatures. Will the greens catch up. More pertinently, will there be enough survival of the early nesters of this generation to keep a viable population going while the whole population adapts? As with all climate change suspense thrillers, only time will tell… Depressing, at any rate.

News in Science – Cyclones may blast turtles to extinction – 15/05/2007

More severe tropical cyclones expected as a result of climate change may lead to the extinction of the green sea turtle in some areas within 100 years, researchers say.

The cyclones are expected to threaten how well the turtles nest and hatch eggs, placing pressure on already endangered populations, some of which are also threatened by fish trawling.

Researchers including PhD candidate David Pike, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney, report their findings online in the journal Oecologia.

The researchers studied more than 40,000 sea turtles nests on an uninhabited, 38 kilometre stretch of beach along the Atlantic coast of Florida from 1995 to the end of 2005.

Each night during this period researchers surveyed the beach for turtles emerging to lay eggs, or for tracks of turtles that had already deposited eggs.

The stretch of beach is home to the loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles, which start nesting at the beginning in April and end in late September.

This nesting season largely coincides with region’s tropical storm season, which runs from June to November.

Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and, to a lesser degree, loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) get around this by nesting and hatching earlier.

Only nests laid late in the season are inundated with seawater during storm surges.

But green turtles (Chelonia mydas) nest last.

Their entire nesting season occurs during Florida’s tropical cyclone season, which means their nests and developing eggs are extremely vulnerable to being washed away and killed.

Researchers are concerned that increases in the severity of tropical cyclones in the future may cause green turtle nesting success to worsen.

Tuesdays with Turtles – Lighsticks Kill

Following up on the fishing issues from last week, here’s word that lights used to lure tuna towards longline fisheries attract juvenile sea turtles as well.

Article – Science & Technology – Lightsticks may hold deadly attraction for sea turtles

RALEIGH, N.C. Longline fishermen use lightsticks similar to the glowing tubes that delight trick-or-treaters to lure tuna and swordfish to baited hooks. New research by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill scientists suggests that for endangered sea turtles the lights may hold a fatal attraction.

Lab experiments by Ken Lohmann, a University of North Carolina biology professor and John Wang, a graduate who is now a research associate at the University of Hawaii and National Marine Fisheries, found that young loggerhead turtles in a tank tended to swim toward lights.

It’s well known that hatchling turtles on a beach will crawl toward lights as they try to find the surf. But researchers did not know whether juvenile loggerheads in the water shared that attraction. Young loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles, which are protected because of declining numbers, are inadvertently hooked during longline fishing.

Well, not so surprising, is it? Bioluminescence is a common enough phenomenon that especially at night, animals will be attracted to light as it can signal food. It’s tricky, but when you try to catch fish, tyou will catch other animals as well. So, when you change something about the way you catch fish, you need to study how it affects other endangered species…

Off topic, but it is ironic that I read this in the ocregister, which is a newspaper from Orange County, California. It reported on work done by UNC Chapel Hill, which is in Orange County, North Carolina.