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Movements of Loggerhead Sea Turtles in the Gulf of California

August 24, 2020

The first study to describe loggerhead movements in the Gulf of California results in data suggesting that loggerhead foraging movements are performed in areas rich in levels of chlorophyll-a.

The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is a circumglobal species and is listed as vulnerable globally.

The North Pacific population nests in Japan and migrates to the Central North Pacific and Pacific coast of North America to feed. In the Mexican Pacific, records of loggerhead presence are largely restricted to the Gulf of Ulloa along the Baja California Peninsula, where very high fisheries by-catch mortality has been reported.

Records of loggerhead turtles within the Sea of Cortez also known as the Gulf of California (GC) exist; however, their ecology in this region is poorly understood.

We used satellite tracking and an environmental variable analysis (chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) and sea surface temperature (SST)) to determine movements and habitat use of five juvenile loggerhead turtles ranging in straight carapace length from 62.7–68.3 cm (mean: 66.7 ± 2.3 cm). Satellite tracking durations ranged from 73–293 days (mean: 149 ± 62.5 days), transmissions per turtle from 14–1006 (mean: 462 ± 379.5 transmissions) and total travel distance from 1237–5222 km (mean: 3118 ± 1490.7 km).

We used travel rate analyses to identify five foraging areas in the GC, which occurred mainly in waters from 10–80 m deep, with mean Chl-a concentrations ranging from 0.28–13.14 mg m−3 and SST ranging from 27.8–34.4°C.

This is the first study to describe loggerhead movements in the Gulf of California and our data suggest that loggerhead foraging movements are performed in areas with eutrophic levels of Chl-a.

Sandoval-Lugo AG, Espinosa- Carreon TL, Seminoff JA, Hart CE, Ley- Quinonez CP, Aguirre AA, Jones TT, Zavala-Norzagaray AA. 2020. Movements of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Gulf of California: integrating satellite telemetry and remotely sensed environmental variables. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 1-8.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025315420000636.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 12/08/2021