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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 21:191-203 (2013)  -  DOI:

Using an ocean model to predict likely drift tracks of sea turtle carcasses in the north central Gulf of Mexico

Redwood W. Nero1,*, Melissa Cook2, Andrew T. Coleman3, Moby Solangi3, Robert Hardy4

1NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Bldg 1021, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39520, USA
2NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 3209 Frederic St., Pascagoula, Mississippi 39567, USA
3Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, 10801 Dolphin Lane, Gulfport, Mississippi 39503, USA
4Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 Eighth Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, Florida 32399, USA

ABSTRACT: From March through July 2011, an increased number of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles Lepidochelys kempii were reported stranded on the islands, beaches and shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Members of the National Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network responded, documenting the location and physical condition of each turtle. This report describes an ocean physical model-based analysis of the spring and summer 2011 Mississippi stranding events. Included within this group of strandings was 1 satellite-tagged moribund Kemp’s ridley turtle, initially alive and tagged by the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies for a site fidelity study. Data from this tracking event provided an accurate time sequence of 58 h, during which the animal was presumed to be drifting, based on observed characteristics that were typical of a floating carcass. Turtle drift data were combined with output from the America SEAS (AMSEAS) hydrodynamic model to provide an estimate of leeway. The AMSEAS model was then applied to an additional 247 stranded turtles to produce 5 d Lagrangian backtrack drifts to derive mortality source location probability maps. Based on the model presented in this study, the majority of mortalities appeared to have occurred in eastern Louisiana state waters.

KEY WORDS: Kemp’s ridley · Sea turtle · Lepidochelys kempii · Stranding · Lagrangian · Backtracking

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Cite this article as: Nero RW, Cook M, Coleman AT, Solangi M, Hardy R (2013) Using an ocean model to predict likely drift tracks of sea turtle carcasses in the north central Gulf of Mexico. Endang Species Res 21:191-203.

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