MEPS 440:241-254 (2011)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09380

Movement patterns of immature and adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Erin E. Seney1,2,3,*, André M. Landry Jr.1,2

1Sea Turtle & Fisheries Ecology Research Laboratory, Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston, PO Box 1675, Galveston, Texas 77553, USA
2Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, 2258 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843, USA
3Present address: Erin Seney Consulting, Woodbridge, Virginia, USA

ABSTRACT: The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys kempii is recovering from declines that reduced nesting from a single-day estimate of 10000 to 40000 females in 1947 to <300 during the entire 1985 nesting season. Although beach monitoring is crucial to estimating nesting population size and activity, in-water data are essential for understanding population dynamics, evaluating management strategies, and ensuring the species’ continued recovery. Fifteen immature and 7 adult female ridleys were fitted with platform terminal transmitters and released off the upper Texas coast during 2004 through 2007. Immature individuals were tracked primarily during warmer months and exhibited preferences for tidal passes, bays, coastal lakes, and nearshore waters, although movement patterns varied among years. Females tracked during their inter-­nesting intervals remained in the vicinity of the upper Texas coast and, upon entering the post-nesting stage, moved eastward along the 20 m isobath to foraging areas offshore of central Louisiana. Satellite telemetry indicated that inshore and continental shelf waters of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico serve as developmental, migratory, inter-nesting, and post-nesting habitat for the Kemp’s ridley. Projected population growth will likely lead to increased use of the northwestern Gulf by the species and more frequent encounters with human activities. The extent of such anthropogenic interactions and need for mitigation measures should be examined and considered by natural resource managers to facilitate continued recovery of this and other sea turtle species in the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise, research efforts should be continued to better understand seasonal in-water distributions, abundances, population dynamics, and mortality risks to all life history stages.

KEY WORDS: Kemp’s ridley sea turtle · Northwestern Gulf of Mexico · In-water data · Foraging · Migration · Satellite telemetry

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Cite this article as: Seney EE, Landry AM (2011) Movement patterns of immature and adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 440:241-254

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