ESR 29:279-287 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00718

International movements of adult female leatherback turtles in the Caribbean: results from tag recovery data (2002-2013)

J. A. Horrocks1,*, S. Stapleton2, H. Guada3,4, C. Lloyd5, E. Harris6, M. Fastigi7, J. Berkel8, K. Stewart9, J. Gumbs10, K. L. Eckert11

1WIDECAST Marine Turtle Tagging Centre, Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of the West Indies - Cave Hill Campus, Bridgetown BB11000, Barbados
2Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project, Jumby Bay, PO Box 243, St. John’s, Antigua
3Instituto de Zoología y Ecología Tropical, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Facultad de Ciencias, Paseo Los Ilustres, Los Chaguaramos, Apdo. 47058, Caracas 1041, Distrito Capital, Venezuela
4Centro de Investigación y Conservación de Tortugas Marinas, Apdo. 50.789, Caracas 1050-A, Venezuela
5Ocean Spirits, PO Box 1373, Grand Anse, St. George’s, Grenada
6Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization, PO Box 939, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica
7YWF-Kido Foundation, Kido Ecological Research Station, Sanctuary, Carriacou, Grenadines of Grenada
8St. Eustatius National Parks, Gallows Bay z/n, Sint Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands
9St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network, PO Box 2298, Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis
10Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Government of Anguilla, PO Box 60, The Valley 2640, Anguilla
11Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), 1348 Rusticview Drive, Ballwin, Missouri 63011, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea nest across the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR), including at low densities in many Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Most (87.8%) WCR governments protect the species from direct harvest; however, gravid females are at risk as they pass through unprotected regimes, especially among Eastern Caribbean SIDS where mortality can threaten the remnant nesting assemblages that characterize most Caribbean islands. We summarize flipper tag recovery data of adult females moving between WCR States or between islands within States. Between January 2002 and December 2013, WC-series tags obtained from WIDECAST’s Marine Turtle Tagging Centre in Barbados were attached to 3151 leatherbacks. Most (64.3%) were tagged in Eastern Caribbean SIDS, with the remainder tagged in Guyana, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. The majority of females continued to nest at the location of tagging, but 211 tagged females were recovered elsewhere on 240 occasions, including 22 different sites in 17 countries. Females travelled significantly greater straight line distances between locations in different nesting seasons (x̄ = 218.9 km) than within nesting seasons (x̄ = 160.6 km). Rates of within- and between-season recoveries (2.8 and 4.3%, respectively) are similar to previously published estimates, but are likely to be underestimates, as few of the 470 known nesting beaches in the WCR are nocturnally monitored. Our data support a North Caribbean nesting population, a Southern Caribbean/Guianas stock, and suggest the existence of a Central Antillean nesting population nesting primarily within Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Lucia.


KEY WORDS: Caribbean · Dermochelys coriacea · Leatherback · Nesting · Tag recovery · Within‑season nesting · Between-season nesting · WIDECAST · Population structure


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Cite this article as: Horrocks JA, Stapleton S, Guada H, Lloyd C and others (2016) International movements of adult female leatherback turtles in the Caribbean: results from tag recovery data (2002-2013). Endang Species Res 29:279-287. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00718

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