Abstract

Effective management of migratory sea turtles requires informed and sustained collaboration among range states. The primary objective of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network's regional Marine Turtle Tagging Centre at the University of the West Indies, Barbados, has been to encourage and enable such collaboration, uniting otherwise isolated sea turtle tagging programs to benefit from information on the geographic range of sea turtles tagged in one country and captured, sighted, or stranded in another country. We present the first summary of information gleaned from international tag returns of adult female hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) marked with Marine Turtle Tagging Centre tags. Twenty-one sea turtle projects in 19 countries and overseas territories received Inconel 1005–681 tags from the Marine Turtle Tagging Centre between January 2002 and June 2009, and 12 of these projects have reported tagging adult female hawksbills, for a combined total of 2261 tagged individuals. Sixty-three of these individuals (2.8%), sighted at least once in another country since being tagged, have been reported to the Marine Turtle Tagging Centre; the majority of them (96.8%) were originally tagged while they were nesting in Barbados. Based on minimum straight-line distance traveled, the point of capture averaged 343.9 ± 69.7 km standard error (SE), (median 175 km) from the nesting beach. The average number of days between tagging and the first recapture was 835 ± 67.9 days SE, median 860 days). Although the majority of returns came from within a few hundred kilometers of the tagging site, tagged animals often passed through multiple exclusive economic zones and were exposed to conflicting management regimes, which include legal and illegal sea turtle fisheries. The shallow continental shelf off the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras was confirmed as a foraging ground for Eastern Caribbean hawksbills.

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