No new hits from Asha. We’ve heard nothing from her tag since February 11. She has officially gone offline.
The question in these situations is always: Why?
I can’t answer with certainty except to say I don’t know.
We don’t think that she has been hurt. Because her tag hits trickled down, it is unlikely that we’ve lost contact for any reason other than the failure of the tag in some respect.
It is possible that the tag was knocked off of her shell, though this is also unlikely because the hits to the satellite slowly decreased.
It is most likely that the tag was biofouled, which happens when organisms like algae and barnacles colonize on the tag and impact how it performs.
But here is the silver lining. She may yet be found (as in the remarkable case of Red Rockette!). In addition to her satellite tag, Asha was wearing flipper tags. These are the small metal tags sea turtle researchers attach to turtles’ flippers as a way of identifying the animals. The tags have an ID code on one side (our codes start with CAN for “Canada”) and the research group’s mailing address on the other. Asha is also microchipped with a number that is linked to our group.
So if she does nest on a beach where there is a monitoring program, one of our colleagues in the Caribbean will find her and will be able to tell us about her. If we’re extra lucky, she’ll still be wearing the satellite tag and we’ll have the chance to get it back.
The trick with Asha, however, is that she has no known nesting history. She was not previously flipper tagged or microchipped by another group. We didn’t know where in the ocean she was going.
So the happy ending to this story that we’re hoping for may be some time in coming. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that Asha stays safe in the meantime.