About the Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program

A green sea turtle coming ashore at Lisianski Island.
A green sea turtle coming ashore at Lisianski Island.

An important part of the Center's research mission is to provide the scientific foundation for conservation and management actions to recover depleted populations of sea turtles. Actions to protect turtles began with the 1973 Endangered Species Act, and in the 1978 revision of the Act sea turtles were listed as threatened or endangered species. Along with these events, in the mid-1970s the Marine Turtle Research Program (MTRP) was founded by scientists at the Honolulu Laboratory, precursor to the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and the group began studies of marine turtles in Hawaii, other U.S. territories in the central and western Pacific, and around the Pacific Rim. The primary focus was on the threatened green sea turtle population in the Hawaiian Islands. The program launched biological investigations of many aspects of green turtle life history and ecology including assistance with nesting surveys at French Frigate Shoals (in support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service); surveys of turtles in their nearshore feeding and resting habitats around the main Hawaiian Islands; rescue, rehabilitation and release of turtles stranded on beaches due to injury; studies of turtle health and disease; and much more. The MTRP, with the active collaboration of research partners, has produced valuable long-term time series of data on Hawaiian green turtles and numerous contributions to the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Much of the data is used by the Center's Marine Turtle Assessment Program (MTAP) (which was formed in 2005) to investigate the biology of turtles in Hawaii and across the U.S. Pacific Island Territories and focus on the quantitative analysis of turtle populations, their ecosystems, and the effects of climate and environmental factors on turtle population dynamics.

In 2014, when the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center moved to the Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, the MTRP and MTAP were consolidated into a single turtle research program to improve coordination and efficiency as recommended by an independent panel who conducted the last review of turtle research at the Center.