In great news, Asha has left Cape Cod Bay! This is her track as of this morning. Many thanks to our colleagues in the Cape Cod area who were helping keep watch for her. Can’t wait to see where she goes now!
It looks like Christie and Beverly are going to head out of Canadian waters soon.
Christie has been keeping us guessing a little bit. We had expected her to leave the Gulf of St. Lawrence about ten days ago. But she’s made her way around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island now and is off. Beverly, who has been spending her days off Newfoundland looks as though she, too, has begun to head offshore and I think will swing south now.
Asha is worrying us big time. She is in a very dangerous spot for leatherbacks these days: Cape Cod Bay. It is dense with lobster trap lines at this time of year. Mike James, our sea turtle scientist, is keeping our colleagues in New England updated so they know where Asha is. We are all closely watching her track in case the satellite transmissions begin to indicate that she has stopped moving and might be entangled.
When we first started studying leatherbacks in Canadian waters, the hypothesis was that if the turtles were here in any numbers at all (and—as funny as it seems now, at the time, that was a big if!), then they followed a particular corridor. From a conservation standpoint, following a corridor would have made our lives much easier. If the turtles use a narrow band of ocean, it is ostensibly simpler to protect their habitat.
But what our satellite tracking research has shown over the years is that turtles make broad use of the ocean, their track lines crisscrossing one another like noodles on a plate of spaghetti. The turtles we’re tracking this year are wonderful examples of what makes our work so interesting (and challenging). Each turtle is doing something different.
The sea turtle field season, which has just ended, is our most exciting time. It is also our busiest. For two months we work weekdays and weekends with lots of long hours. By the end we are tired…but still always sorry it’s over.
I had hoped to write more often over the summer, but I fell behind. Instead, I’ll fill you in on tales from the field over the next few weeks.
First, of course, is what is up with Beverly. If you look at the map below, you’ll see that she’s been joined by two other turtles: Asha and Christie whom we tagged the first week of August.
Here is a map of the three tracks on August 8.
Here it is a bit closer up.
And here is where the turtles are today.
This is what Asha looks like.
We weighed her, and she came in at just over 400 kilograms (almost 900 pounds). Her curved carapace length or CCL (the length over the curve of her top shell) was 158.4 cm. We don’t know where Asha is from, and we don’t know whether or not she’ll nest this season. She’s our mystery turtle for this year.
And this is Christie.
When we found Christie, she was pretty scraped up. We’re not sure from what exactly. We weren’t able to weigh her, but she measured 159.2 CCL. Just a smidge bigger than Asha. Like Beverly, Christie is also a Trinidad turtle. She’s due to nest again this spring, which is exciting. She’s nested both at Matura Beach and at Grande Rivière in past years.