Tag Archives: threats

More Margaret…and more and more turtles

Margaret (in front) and (from left to right) Sheldon Murray, Kevin Muhammad, Trishara Hernandez, Latresa Mayers and Ria Steward-- our friends in Trinidad from the Grand Rivière Nature Tour Guide Association and Stakeholders Against Destruction. Photo courtesy of Kevin Muhammad.

Margaret (in front) and (from left to right) Sheldon Murray, Kevin Muhammad, Trishara Hernandez, Latresa Mayers and Ria Steward– our friends in Trinidad from the Grande Rivière Nature Tour Guide Association and Stakeholders Against Destruction. Photo courtesy of Kevin Muhammad.

Mike James received an email from our friends at Grande Rivière with the subject line: “Your baby.”

“I was on the beach last night facilitating a tag training session with Toco folks and look who I ran into,” wrote Kevin Muhammad.

Margaret!

She was back nesting again (likely for the third time by this point) and she looked terrific. This is a photo of the team that found her along with Margaret herself.

It’s been an exciting few weeks at the beaches in Trinidad. On Matura beach, the Nature Seekers found seven Canadian turtles nesting! They could tell they were “our” turtles by reading their flipper tags. Flipper tags are small metal tags that sea turtle researchers attach to turtles’ flippers as a way of identifying the animals. The tags have a code made up of numbers and letters on one side (ours start with CAN for “Canada”) and the research group’s mailing address on the other.

Here’s what we know about the leatherbacks they found:

  1. We caught one of them last August just a few hours before we caught and satellite-tagged Margaret! When we caught this turtle we didn’t know she was from Trinidad. (When we caught Margaret, she had flipper tags that had been applied in Trinidad, so we knew she was a Trinidad nester.)
  1. We flipper tagged one of the leatherbacks in 2011.
  1. Two of the turtles were previously satellite tagged. One of them in 2005 and the other in 2012.

We are particularly excited to hear news of the turtle from 2012. She had been entangled in fishing gear when we found her. We cleared her of the gear before we put the tag on her and were interested to watch how she managed after the entanglement. We are thrilled to hear that she is healthy and nesting now!

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Peggy

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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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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