ESR 4:3-22 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00060

Satellite tracking of sea turtles: Where have we been and where do we go next?

B. J. Godley1,*, J. M. Blumenthal1,2, A. C. Broderick1, M. S. Coyne1,3, M. H. Godfrey4, L. A. Hawkes1, M. J. Witt1

1Marine Turtle Research Group, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK
2Department of Environment, PO Box 486, Grand Cayman KY1–1106, Cayman Islands
3SEATURTLE.org, 1 Southampton Place, Durham, North Carolina 27705, USA
4North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 1507 Ann Street, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA

ABSTRACT: The use of satellite tracking for the fundamental and applied study of marine turtles began in the 1980s but has undergone rapid growth in recent years. To provide a background against which to judge the past success and future directions of these research efforts we carried out a comprehensive review of over 130 scientific papers on the use of this technique in this taxon. We show how satellite tracking has changed over time as well as outlining biases in spatial, species and life-stage coverage. Descriptions of migration routes and other habitats have offered novel insights into the basic life history patterns of some species, highlighted focal areas for conservation and reinforced the multi-national nature of the stakeholders of many populations. In foraging areas, knowledge is growing as to how animals move within dynamic seascapes, thus facilitating our understanding of 3-dimensional habitat use and seasonal patterns of behaviour. More experimental approaches have elucidated navigational capabilities and post-release survival following fisheries interaction and long-term captivity. In addition, through the Internet and other media, satellite tracking appears to have been effective in engaging public attention in many countries. Finally, we discuss why the use of the technique has increased so markedly over time and point out key areas of concern that we feel should be addressed by the community of researchers and donors who focus on sea turtles.


KEY WORDS: Sea turtles · Satellite tracking · Migration · Conservation · Navigation · Tagging reflex


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Cite this article as: Godley BJ, Blumenthal JM, Broderick AC, Coyne MS, Godfrey MH, Hawkes LA, Witt MJ (2008) Satellite tracking of sea turtles: Where have we been and where do we go next?. Endang Species Res 4:3-22. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00060

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