Peggy was a leatherback turtle we satellite tagged on Matura Beach in Trinidad at the end of May last year. She was a “Canadian.” When we found her on the beach, she was wearing flipper tags that showed we had worked with her in waters off Halifax in July 2009.
Normally we only work with leatherbacks in Canadian waters. This was the first time we put a satellite tag on a leatherback on a nesting beach. It was exciting and the result of a collaboration with our friends Dr. Scott Eckert, the Nature Seekers in Trinidad, and CBC’s The Nature of Things. Many people have asked us about her since seeing the documentary CBC aired last week. (If you are in Canada, you can watch the documentary that includes Peggy here.)
This is a picture of Peggy heading back into the ocean after we satellite tagged her. It is dark because leatherbacks nest at night.
We had hoped to follow Peggy’s track as she migrated back up to Atlantic Canadian waters. As you can see, however, Peggy’s track only lasted for 35 days.
She returned to Matura Beach three times to nest after she was satellite tagged. The third time, the Nature Seekers team observed her and had the chance to photograph her. She looked great, as did her tag. She left after that third nesting and headed out to an area off Galera Point to wait out “follicle development.” Her behaviour was typical of a leatherback getting ready to nest again.
Then she disappeared.
There is a lot of gillnet fishing in the area where we last heard from Peggy. Leatherbacks are routinely accidentally caught in this fishery. We talked to a fisherman from that area, who talked to others in his community. Although none of them reported catching a leatherback with a transmitter on her, it is still our best guess that Peggy was accidentally caught in a gillnet and died as a result.