Click image to enlarge
turtle captured in net from small boat A loggerhead is captured in a net and brought aboard the small boat for transfer to a larger vessel nearby for sampling and tagging before release. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Eric Matzen, NEFSC
underwater view of turtle just below the ocean surface A tagged loggerhead heads back to sea. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Eric Matzen, NEFSC

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May 23, 2017
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Turtle Team Sets One-Day Record for Tagging Loggerhead Turtles

Sixteen loggerhead sea turtles were sampled and tagged during a May 15-19 cruise to the Mid-Atlantic area off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and offshore into the Gulf Stream. NOAA Fisheries researchers and their colleagues hoped to capture animals at the start of their migration north as ocean waters warm.

“The first morning we had ideal sea conditions, so with an outstanding nine-person team of fishermen, researchers, and a student headed to work this summer for the Canadian DFO sea turtle program, we sampled and tagged 13 turtles in one day,” said Eric Matzen of the NEFSC’s Protected Species Branch at the Woods Hole Laboratory. “I believe that was a record for us. We saw some very interesting sea turtle behavior out there, so it will be exciting to look at the data on that and see how the migration progresses,” he added.

Since 2009, approximately 165 loggerheads have been tagged in the Mid-Atlantic during this project. Many of the tagged turtles can be tracked on the NEFSC’s turtle tagging web site.

The work is intended to learn more about loggerhead turtle movements and behavior. The team includes researchers from the Coonamessett Farm Foundation (CFF) in East Falmouth, Mass. and the NEFSC in Woods Hole. The team worked this year with the captain and crew aboard a commercial sea scallop vessel, the 91-foot F/V Kathy Ann, based in Barneget Light, New Jersey.

A portion of the tagging project is funded from an award to CFF through the sea scallop industry's research set-aside program and provides an opportunity for collaboration on research of long-term interest. The multi-agency Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species initiative provides supporting funds to the NEFSC for its participation.

“This work continues the scallop industry’s efforts to maintain the health and well-being of the sea turtle populations in the Northeast,” said Ron Smolowitz of CFF.