Tag Archives: entanglement

Riley and Lily Rose…and an update on our current turtle gang

Riley and Lily Rose have both been seen nesting in French Guiana! We’ve just heard from our friend Antoine Baglan, who manages the database for Association KWATA in Cayenne, French Guiana. (Antoine is also, incidentally, an amazing nature photographer.)

You know, of course, the story of Lily Rose, and why she is so special to us.

But do you remember Riley? Riley used to keep us up at night. She was one of the first Canadian leatherbacks that we tracked right into Cape Cod Bay, where she navigated the maze of fishing gear for many days. I remember Scott Landry, the director of Marine Animal Entanglement Response at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts, reviewing one of the daily Riley updates we sent and saying, “Wow. This just gets worse.”

But she thankfully got out and continued to swim down the coast of the United States. Riley was kind of like Beverly. We had tagged her as part of the Great Canadian Turtle Race, and she behaved differently from the rest of the turtles we were following that year. You can see her track below in red.

20 November 2012

And then after almost seven months of tracking, Riley’s tag stopped.

So we are thrilled to hear about her and to know that she is safe and nesting—and we are also excited to learn where she is from, which we didn’t know when we tagged her!

Below is an updated map on the turtles we’re following now. Beverly continues to entertain us with her track, looping around and down again now.


Look how far Sharon has gone! I love seeing her zip past all of those islands. You can see this in more detail in this map:


But it’s Christie we’re watching most closely now. She’s still in the nesting zone.


Her current location is off Toco point, which is a busy fishing area and the place where we lost contact with Peggy. Let’s hope she pulls a Riley and makes it through safely.

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Sharon joins the turtle crew


And now there are three turtles to follow again.

Our friends at the Nature Seekers satellite tagged another “Canadian” turtle at Matura Beach, Trinidad, that we have named Sharon. She is the blue dot, just below Christie’s green dot.

Here is a closer look at Sharon’s movements over the last few weeks:


And here is a closer look at Christie’s track:


Both turtles are hanging near the coast. As you may remember, leatherbacks nest several times during a season. The days between each nesting event are called the “internesting interval.” During this time, while the next clutch of eggs is developing, the turtles are typically close to shore and within about 100 kilometers of their nesting beaches.

The part about this normal behaviour that makes us uneasy is that the turtles’ chance of entanglement in fishing gear at this time of year is high. So we’re doing the only thing we can: crossing our fingers and hoping that Sharon and Christie stay safe.

We’re also keeping an eye on Beverly, whom you may have noticed has turned and started swimming west again—perhaps on her way back home.

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In a turtle’s tummy

2014_10_17As I’ve mentioned before, we get a lot of interesting things in the mail at our office. We just received this specimen bag from our colleagues at Atlantic Veterinary College. It is from the necropsy (autopsy) of one of the entangled leatherbacks from earlier this month. The specimen is a brown plastic lid that is about 6 cm (2.5 inches) in diameter.

This lid was in the turtle’s stomach. The turtle had also eaten a small plastic bag, which we found nestled inside this cap during the necropsy.

A sea turtle can’t digest a plastic lid or a plastic bag. Plastics sit–until the turtle’s death–in its digestive tract.

Neither the plastic bag nor the lid was the cause of death for this particular leatherback, but it was sobering to find them.

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Migration situation


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 still a cause for worry. We still nervously check up on her positions several times a day hoping that she is not entangled in Cape Cod Bay, where she seems insistent on staying for now.

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Asha on our minds


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.

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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.)

Peggy heads back into the ocean after being satellite tagged. Photo copyright Canadian Sea Turtle Network (info@seaturtle.ca)

Peggy heads back into the ocean after being satellite tagged. Photo copyright Canadian Sea Turtle Network (info@seaturtle.ca)

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.

Picture 3

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.



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Losing sleep


It is possible that you have not been kept up at night worrying about Riley the turtle. But we have. She has behaved differently from the other turtles we satellite tagged for the Great Canadian Turtle Race from the start. When they headed north to feed on jellyfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, she went south, dipping into U.S. waters. When we were sure she was going to keep snaking along the Eastern seaboard, she headed back up into Canada again.

There was something about New England that drew her, however, and we’ve spent the last few weeks nervously watching her swim deeper into Massachusetts Bay, slipping down into Cape Cod, where she has circled around and around in an area known for leatherback entanglements. We’ve been keeping in constant contact with our colleagues at the Provincetown Centre for Coastal Studies (PCCS) who work on disentangling leatherbacks in that area. It has been a record year for leatherback entanglements there, and they were really concerned about our turtle.

“Wow. This just gets worse,” wrote Scott Landry from PCCS after reviewing one of the daily maps Mike sent him showing Riley’s latest position.

But late last night, as we pulled up the maps to check on her one more time before bed, we discovered she had rounded Provincetown safely, heading out into the open Atlantic. We are celebrating today!

And we’re hoping that Miss Riley doesn’t take it upon herself to go back into the Bay. But you never know what these turtles will do.

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