Analysis and Publication of Extensive Sea Turtle Satellite Tracking Data a High Priority

Since the late 1990's, the PIFSC Marine Turtle Research Program (MTRP) has compiled an extensive collection of tracking data for sea turtles in pelagic habitats of the Pacific Ocean. The data come from satellite transmitter tags attached to turtles by MTRP staff, NOAA-funded fishery observers and research colleagues at collaborating agencies and institutions in Asia and the South Pacific. Denise Parker, a MTRP scientist employed by the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, is preparing a manuscript describing the pelagic habitats of loggerhead turtles, olive ridley turtles, and green turtles in the North Pacific based on the tracking data. The manuscript presents results of dual miniature satellite transmitter deployments on turtles over the past decade. Parker also has compiled a comprehensive array of pelagic satellite tracking data on North Pacific loggerhead turtles collected during 1997-2009 for submission to the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS). The loggerhead data will be included in the PacIOOS data mapping system.

In addition to analyzing and publishing results of completed turtle tracks, Parker has been monitoring the movements of tagged turtles still at large, including juvenile and sub-adult loggerhead turtles released with satellite tags in Japan. Thirty-one loggerheads were released offshore into the Sea of Japan (on Japan's west side), and 29 loggerheads were released offshore into the Pacific (off the east side of Japan). As of late February 2012, data transmission had stopped for only 2 of the 29 turtles released into the Pacific; however, tags on 14 of the 31 turtles released into the Sea of Japan had stopped transmitting, with most of these being juvenile turtles. MTRP scientists are exploring possible reasons for the larger percentage of transmitters stopping on the Sea of Japan turtles. Exposure to cold water is one possibility. The most recent temperatures recorded by the tags in late February showed that on average, the Pacific turtles were in seawater temperatures of 15-20 °C, whereas those in the Sea of Japan were in temperatures between 5-15 °C.