Project Title: Understanding Impacts of the Sea Scallop Fishery on Loggerhead Sea Turtles through Satellite Tagging
Principle Investigators: Samir Patel & Shea Miller
Client: NOAA/NMFS Atlantic Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Program
This years sea turtle tagging project has continued to add invaluable data to CFF’s already abundant dataset on juvenile loggerhead sea turtles. The focus of this project is to evaluate the distribution and behavior of loggerhead sea turtles to better understand their interactions with the scallop fishery. This improved understanding will help reduce turtle bycatch in scallop dredges. This years project consisted of three dedicated research trips. Two trips took place aboard the F/V Kathy Ann, a 91 foot commercial scalloping vessel and one trip took place aboard the NOAAS Henry B. Bigelow, a 209 foot research vessel. A total of 10 loggerhead sea turtles were tagged during the research trips. During the June 23 – July 2, 2015 trip aboard the NOAAS Henry B. Bigelow, we focused our work in Georges Bank and deployed 2 satellite transmitters on loggerheads.
Similar to previous results, our observations of the migratory and dive patterns of the tagged turtles have identified interesting characteristics in overall behavior, notably in the location and distribution of the turtles. Again, we found that loggerheads are utilizing habitats further north and further offshore than previously recorded during the summer months. The turtles in Georges Bank are unique in that we have never tracked a turtle reaching this region; however historically there have been regular sightings of loggerheads in the area. As a result, we suspect the Georges Bank turtles may be a unique cohort using a currently unidentified migratory path to reach this region, having an unknown seasonal distribution pattern and exhibiting a different foraging behavior compared to their Mid-Atlantic counterparts.