Tag Archives: Inspire

Disappointment

Inspire’s transmitter has stopped working. She is officially offline now. This is particularly frustrating because she came so close to the nesting beach. We had hoped we could follow her until she nested. There were so many colleagues helping us in Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico—ready to find Inspire if she hauled ashore.

“I’m convinced that the transmitters are coming off because these leatherbacks are mating. The male turtles likely knock them off—or damage the antennas—when they approach,” says Canadian leatherback expert Dr. Mike James.

We know that leatherbacks mate near the nesting beaches. And we are glad that the turtles we tagged seem to be mating—this is exactly what a population of endangered species needs.

But we’re still disappointed to have lost contact with Inspire’s satellite tag.

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Week 22 Map

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Here are recent positions for Inspire and Red Rockette. They are hovering just offshore. The first two maps show Inspire’s position off Dominican Republic. The second two show Red Rockette, who seems to be heading for Colombia.

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Inspire’s track up close

Here is Inspire‘s track. The first map shows her whole trek from Canadian waters down to the nesting area. The second and third maps zoom in on her track off Dominican Republic.

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Inspire may be about to nest

We were up late last night. Inspire is within a few kilometers of land, deep in Bahia de Samana, a bay on the northeast side of Dominican Republic. Maybe, just maybe, she’s heading in to nest.

“It’s still early in the nesting season,” says Canadian sea turtle expert, Dr. Mike James. “But the fact that she has come in this close to shore in a known nesting region for the turtles is certainly encouraging. That isn’t usually what females do unless they are about to nest. We’ll see.”

We have not had a Canadian turtle nest in Dominican Republic before. The sea turtle community is incredibly supportive and helpful. So, we contacted our friend and colleague Carlos Diez, who is the country coordinator for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) in Puerto Rico, which is near Dominican Republic. Carlos put us in contact with his WIDECAST counterpart in Dominican Republic, Dr. Yolanda León. Yolanda connected us with Peter Sánchez, who directs the marine sanctuary in that area of the country.

“We often see leatherbacks on the whale watch trips, which are on-going now. However, most of the nesting activity we’ve recorded there has been on the north of the peninsula. So interesting!” Yolanda wrote.

Peter Sanchez and his crew are now on alert. We’ve sent them maps and photographs and are hoping that if Inspire heads onshore, they’ll be able to find her and remove her satellite tag. Dominican Republic is a tricky place for sea turtles. It has high rates of poaching—sea turtles harvested for meat (and hard-shelled turtles for their shells), and sea turtle eggs harvested in large numbers. Peter’s team will be key to helping protect Inspire.

We’re holding our breath and checking our computers and will keep you posted.

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Week 15: A comparison

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It is cold today in Halifax- really cold. The current temperature is around -23 C with the wind-chill, and is expected to fall to -29 C tonight. All of us who have to brave freezing cold temperatures this week in Canada and the US Northeast and Midwest are likely a little envious of Inspire, Lily Rose, and Red Rocket’s current position.
As a comparison, the water temperature in Halifax Harbour is currently 4 C, with a freezing spray warning in effect. The surface temperature of the Caribbean Sea today? A lovely 27 C!

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Inspire

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The turtles are turning in toward the mating and nesting grounds. Even Esmerelda, who was just about 750 km from Cape Verde off the coast of west Africa, has started to head slightly west. I expect Trekker to follow suit soon. (Riley is, of course, being Riley and doing her own thing off the continental U.S.!)

Jan8map_v2_zoom_InspireBut it’s Inspire I’m particularly interested in today because she illustrates something important. If you look at the close-up of her track, you’ll see what I’m talking about. In just 15 days, she has crossed through the waters of five nations: France (the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique), Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

Leatherbacks are what we call a “highly” migratory species. Their migrations are immense. This in itself is wondrous. How do the turtles find their way? But migrations of this extent present complications. What happens when an animal that is protected in one country (like Canada) swims into the waters of another country whose interest in protecting it may be different? How can we be certain that our work to keep endangered leatherbacks safe in Canadian waters is upheld in France, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and in the many other countries whose waters “our” turtles inhabit?

One way is if the countries agree to work together—a tall order under any circumstances. Back in 1994 nations in the western hemisphere began to talk about how they could best conserve sea turtles in the Americas. What came of those discussions is a treaty called the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles.

Fifteen countries have signed it.

But not Canada. And that bothers me.

As Inspire swims through those political boundaries, I’m reminded of the importance of international cooperation. I think Canadians should be leaders here. I think leatherbacks, making these incredible journeys, deserve our support.

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