Marine Turtle Research Program Engaged in Research Projects at Home and Abroad

PIFSC scientists have been actively pursuing sea turtle research projects on the home front and in the wider area of the North Pacific.

As part of research in local waters, Wendy Marks of the Marine Turtle Research Program (MTRP) compiled counts of basking Hawaiian green turtles recorded daily at Laniakea Beach on Oahu's North Shore from May to October, 2011. The counts were made by volunteers of the local nonprofit organization Malama Na Honu ("Protect the Turtles"). Marks used the data to update a long-term time series graph (below) that continues to demonstrate the absence of any decline in turtle basking at Laniakea despite heavy human visitation at this popular and well-advertised tourist location.

PIFSC staff members have also been pursuing sea turtle research projects in other regions of the North Pacific. In the eastern Pacific, Denise Parker (with the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research) and George Balazs, Leader of the MTRP, recently worked with Camryn Allen of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center on a multiauthored manuscript entitled "Migratory origin of loggerhead turtles in the Southern California Bight (SCB) as inferred by stable isotope analysis and satellite telemetry: implications for fisheries management". Analysis of stable isotopes in turtle tissues and in ocean waters indicates that loggerheads in the SCB originated from the central North Pacific, a finding consistent with satellite-tracking data. The research article elaborates on potential oceanographic mechanisms by which loggerhead turtles occupy the SCB and provides insights that can inform management evaluation and decisions on measures to reduce the potential for fishery interactions with loggerheads; for example, possible time-area fishery closures in the SCB, as some have recommended.

In April 2012, George Balazs participated in the "U.S.-China Meeting on Living Marine Resources: China-U.S. Sea Turtle Workshop", held in Shanghai. The workshop provided a starting point for building research collaborations between U.S. and Chinese scientists, mainly scientists from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences. Other U.S. participants included John Wang (PIFSC), Keith Chanon (NOAA Headquarters), Gerard DiNardo (PIFSC), Jeff Seminoff (NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center) and Christina Fahy (NOAA Fisheries Southwest Regional Office). Following the workshop, there was an "International Science Symposium" held at Shanghai Ocean University (SOU) organized by Drs. Xiaojie Dai of SOU and Gerard DiNardo of PIFSC.