New Wave Media

July 23, 2014

Satellite Tracks 2,472-mile Green Turtle Ocean Passage

Green Sea Turtle: Photo courtesy of Swansea Univ./BS & RD Kirkby

Green Sea Turtle: Photo courtesy of Swansea Univ./BS & RD Kirkby

Swansea Universtiy in the UK reports that its researchers, working with colleagues in Australia and the Seychelles, have announced the longest recorded migration for the green sea turtle, an endangered species. One of eight turtles which were tracked by satellite was found to have travelled 3979 km (2,472 m), from the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, to the coast of Somalia in east Africa.

The University adds that the research was reported in the latest issue of 'Conservation Biology'. The team were investigating the effectiveness of marine protected areas, which have been set up by governments around the world over the last decade as part of efforts to reduce declines in ocean biodiversity.

The green turtle breeds on the Chagos Islands, in the Chagos Archipelago protected area, which covers 640,000 km around the isolated islands, which lie in the middle of the Indian Ocean.   When it was set-up in 2010 it was the world’s largest marine protected area and it supports some of the most pristine coral reefs.

The research team attached small tags to the shells of eight nesting turtles, allowing them to be followed by satellite for over a year.  They found:

  • 7 of the 8 tracked individuals migrated to distant foraging grounds which lay outside the protected area boundary.
  • One turtle had travelled 3979 km to the coast of Somalia, the longest migration ever recorded and published.
  • Only 1 of the 8 tracked turtles remained inside the protected area after the breeding season had finished.

The research team is from Swansea University, Deakin University (Australia) and the Seychelles.

Professor Graeme Hays, from the College of Science at Swansea University, said: 

"The message from this research is that networks of small protected areas need to be developed alongside larger ones, so species which migrate over long distances can stay in safe zones for as much time as possible."

Source: Swansea University College of Science