A study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation used satellites to track threatened loggerhead sea turtles. Researchers with Mote Marine Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Florida, first tagged the turtles from nesting areas on Casey Key, the Dry Tortugas and Cape San Blas. The female’s migrations were then tracked. A new method was used to determine when they had arrived at hotspot foraging areas, in two geographically different locations. They found that the sea turtles from the three nesting beaches gathered to eat in some of the same places. One group migrated to foraging sites off Southwest Florida while the other group went to sites at the northern tip of the Yucatan. At both of the feeding sites, turtles selected individual sites where they foraged in shallow or near shore waters . Turtles appeared to prefer their own distinct territories, where they tended to remain resident.
The goal of the researchers was to track the loggerhead turtles to learn more about how they use the Gulf of Mexico. The results provide invaluable information for marine planning and management for this species, whose populations in the Gulf are well below historic levels. This study could also lead to better protections for turtle habitat at sea.