ESR 5:257-266 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00145

Feasibility of using sea surface temperature imagery to mitigate cheloniid sea turtle–fishery interactions off the coast of northeastern USA

Joanne Braun-McNeill1,*, Christopher R. Sasso2, Sheryan P. Epperly2, Carlos Rivero2

1National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 101 Pivers Island Rd., Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
2National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami, Florida 33149, USA

ABSTRACT: As sea turtles migrate along the Atlantic coast of the USA, their incidental capture in fisheries is a significant source of mortality. Because distribution of marine cheloniid turtles appears to be related, in part, to sea surface temperature (SST), the ability to predict water temperature over the continental shelf could be useful in minimizing turtle–fishery interactions. We analyzed 10 yr of advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) SST imagery to estimate the proportion of 18 spatial zones, nearshore and offshore of Hatteras, North Carolina, USA (35°N), to north of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia (44°N), at temperatures >10 to 15°C, by week. Detailed examples for 11°C, the temperature employed by some management actions in the study area, and for 14°C, the lowest temperature at which turtles were sighted by some studies in the area, demonstrate a predictable pattern of rapid warming in March and April, followed by rapid cooling in October and November, with nearshore waters warming more rapidly than those offshore. Of those loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta that stranded, were sighted, or were incidentally captured between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, those at lower latitudes occurred when 25% or more of the area reached a water temperature of 11°C, while those in the northern zones did not occur until 50% or more of the area had reached a water temperature of 14°C. This analysis provides a means of predicting marine cheloniid turtle presence, which can be helpful in regulating fisheries that seasonally interact with turtles.


KEY WORDS: Cheloniid · Management · Sea turtles · Sea surface temperature · Sea turtle–fishery interaction


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Cite this article as: Braun-McNeill J, Sasso CR, Epperly SP, Rivero C (2008) Feasibility of using sea surface temperature imagery to mitigate cheloniid sea turtle–fishery interactions off the coast of northeastern USA. Endang Species Res 5:257-266. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00145

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