Study identifies key loggerhead turtle foraging grounds

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Study identifies key loggerhead turtle foraging grounds

February 02, 2020 - 08:27
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A study reveals that loggerhead turtles feed at the same locations every year.

After tracking female loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean, scientists at University of Exeter discovered that they feed at the same locations every year.

Specifically, these were in the Adriatic region, Tunisian Plateau and the eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, some of these locations are not ideal, and lead the loggerheads into danger.

“Nearly half of the Cyprus nesting population feeds on the Tunisian Plateau, an area known to have some of the highest turtle bycatch in the world," said Julia Haywood, a PhD researcher from the University of Exeter. She is the lead author of a study on the subject, the findings of which were published in the Diversity and Distributions journal.

She added that the information "lets us know which foraging grounds support the most females, and also which support the most reproductively successful females. As environmental conditions change, we can then work out which foraging grounds will become more successful and which will unfortunately become less favourable habitat."

The loggerhead turtles in the study were from two nesting grounds in the Mediterranean. They were tracked over a period of 25 years (from 1993 to 2018), using satellite telemetry and stable isotope analysis.

The study was done in collaboration with the Society for the Protection of Turtles in North Cyprus (SPOT) and ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.

According to Robin Snape (from SPOT), Mediterranean loggerheads lay their nests in the European Union at a time when hundreds of thousands of holidaying European tourists arrive. Then, for the remaining part of the year, many female loggerhead turtles forage in African waters, where their survival is threatened by industrialised fisheries and the consumption of turtle meat.

He said, “Each year, at least 10,000 turtles die as accidental bycatch off North Africa, while illegal trade in turtle meat persists. This research allows prioritisation of conservation resources to specific threats in specific areas.”

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