Library:Shelf life: neritic habitat use of a turtle population highly threatened by fisheries (research)

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Shelf life: neritic habitat use of a turtle population highly threatened by fisheries (research)

Shelf life: neritic habitat use of a turtle population highly threatened by fisheries is a study by Snape et al. (2016) that tracked 27 adult female loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from North Cyprus, one of the main nesting sites in the Mediterranean, using satellite telemetry for a decade. The study aimed to identify the migration corridors and foraging areas of these turtles, as well as their potential interactions with fisheries.

The study discusses:

  • Loggerhead turtle habitat use: a decade of satellite tracking loggerhead turtles from an important nesting site in North Cyprus to determine their migration corridors and foraging areas in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Loggerhead turtle threats: the high mortality rates of loggerhead turtles due to fisheries bycatch, especially in neritic waters of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Cyprus and Syria. It also discusses the challenges of conserving this population across many geopolitical units.
  • Loggerhead turtle life history: some novel aspects of loggerhead turtle behaviour, such as multiple-country nesting, fidelity to foraging sites and routes, and neritic foraging in discrete areas. It also compares the loggerhead turtle habitat use with other populations and species.

The study found that:

  • Loggerhead turtles showed fidelity to their foraging sites and routes, which were distributed over the continental shelf of Cyprus, the Levant and North Africa.
  • The most important foraging areas were in neritic waters of Cyprus and Syria, offshore waters of Egypt, and offshore and near-shore regions of Libya and Tunisia.
  • Some turtles (12.5%) visited other nesting sites in Turkey, Syria and Israel during the nesting season, indicating multiple-country nesting behaviour.
  • During open sea crossings, turtles followed coastal migration routes along the coasts of Cyprus, western Egypt and eastern Libya.
  • The estimated annual mortality rate of turtles was 11%, mainly due to fisheries bycatch in near-shore waters.

The study highlighted the need for more tracking studies from other rookeries in the Mediterranean, as well as more detailed fisheries characterization studies to reduce bycatch. The study also suggested that loggerhead turtles use a wide and diverse range of neritic habitats across many geopolitical units, posing a challenge for their management and protection.

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