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International Sea Turtle Activities
Republic of the Marshall Islands:
Capacity Building: Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA)
JIMAR (Joint Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Research) Project
The scope of work was to:
- expand outreach efforts to fishermen regarding sea turtle-fishery interaction mitigation by improving capabilities of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) staff and observers in recognizing, handling and reporting interactions between sea turtles and commercial tuna fisheries in the Marshall Islands;
- sensitize commercial tuna longline fishing operators in the Marshall Islands to the importance of sea turtle survival during their operations;
- collect data on sea turtle interactions;
- provide appropriate instructions to industry participants and MIMRA personnel on handling specific sea turtle interaction situations;
- integrate topics of sea turtle-fishery interactions into MIMRA’s ongoing resource management program; and
- present a description of methods used in this project and continuing efforts in sea turtle interaction mitigation to a relevant meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
Several project achievements reflect a positive shift in attitudes and practices with respect to sea turtle conservation and management:
- positive reception received from the MIMRA observer program and the interest of observers and staff in adopting release techniques introduced;
- cooperation received from domestic-based foreign longline fishing industry in Majuro;
- positive indication from a Majuro-based local non-governmental organization on participation in phase two of the project; and
- generation of significant publicity in the Marshall Islands, contributing to heightened awareness of the need for sea turtle conservation.
A related highlight that generated more interest in the project and in turtle conservation in the Marshall Islands, was information received on several turtle tag returns from earlier tagging efforts. Tag return information was useful in motivating observers to carefully deploy passive tags on turtles as instructed during their training, and in encouraging MIMRA staff to carefully maintain records of tagging activities.
Marshall Islands Turtle Data Collection Project
JIMAR (Joint Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Research) Project
A turtle data collection project is ongoingwith the non-government organization, Women United Together in the Marshall Islands (WUTMI). The primary goal of WUTMI is to support and strengthen Marshallese women and their families. WUTMI seeks to encourage and ensure activities that preserve and strengthen values of traditional Marshallese culture as well as addressing realities of modern life in the islands.
The primary focus of WUTMI is on projects which prepare the younger generation of women to take their role in society as healthy mothers, educators, health professionals, leaders and business women.
This organization was an excellent candidate for a pilot sea turtle project because of its extensive network of members involved in community activities and their standing as a well-managed, reputable organization capable in dealing with administrative tasks required of this project.
Project sites include Aliuk, Likiep, Wotje and Majuro Atolls. Skin samples are sent to SWFSC for mitochondrial DNA analysis. Results of the analysis will provide WUTMI with information about turtle stocks in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Such information will be shared with Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) and utilized by both organizations in making conservation management decisions regarding RMI sea turtle resources. This project started in November 2005 with a training workshop that included instruction on sea turtle biology, data collection (including taking turtle morphometrics) and biopsy procedures for obtaining skin samples. From November 2005-June 2006 the women of WUTMI prepared reports on 141 individual turtles, of these, most were measured, photographed and skin sampled. Skin samples have been sent to the SWFSC and are being archived. The next phase of this project will begin in early 2007.
Federated States of Micronesia:
Yap State Marine Turtle Research
NOAA/PIRO and JIMAR (Joint Institute for Marine & Atmospheric Research) Project
A marine turtle nesting beach monitoring project on Gielop and Iar Islands, Ulithi Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia, was conducted in 2005 (June to August) and included tagging, measuring, health assessments and tissue sample collection of nesting sea turtles. This project was repeated in the summer of 2006 and focused on Gielop Island alone for logistical reasons including boat and staff availability.
During 2007, the third sequential year of monitoring occurred on Gielop and consisted of 55 survey nights during the green turtle nesting season. The Project Leader was a former Peace Corps Volunteer who supervised the project during 2005-2006. In addition, nine field assistants from Falalop, Ulithi worked on this project. Administrative support of the project was provided by the Oceanic Society and permitting by Yap State Marine Resources and Management Division (MRMD). Funding was provided by PIRO and JIMAR with metal flipper tags and pliers provided by SPREP. Between 18 June and 22 August 2007, 250 green turtles were tagged with titanium flipper tags and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. PIT tags were used to ensure long term individual turtle recognition. Skin samples were collected from all 250 turtles for future mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service SWFSC. Carapace lesions were observed on 3.6% (nine) of tagged turtles. Biopsy samples were collected from 4 turtles for lesion histological analysis.
In August, Dr. Steve Kolinski, PIRO Coral Reef Ecologist, provided technical assistance with satellite transmitter deployment on six post-nesting green turtles. The Philippines appears to be an important foraging area for post nesting Gielop turtles based on four turtle tracks from the 2006 season and one from 2005 (Kamdidi), one turtle’s transmitter discontinued transmitting within the boundaries of Yap State and another appears to have foraging grounds in Malaysia (Kolinski et al, in prep). Postnesting Gielop turtles fitted with transmitters during the 2007 season are still transmitting; however, based on data gathered thus far, foraging grounds may be present in Japan and similar to observations from 2005 and 2006, foraging activity in the Philippines is probable.
Tracking services and expertise are provided by Denise Parker, JIMAR/PIFSC Marine Turtle Research Specialist and George Balazs, Leader, Marine Turtle Research Program PIFSC.