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ESR 24:207-220 (2014)  -  DOI:

Loggerhead sea turtle abundance at a foraging hotspot in the eastern Pacific Ocean: implications for at-sea conservation

Jeffrey A. Seminoff1,*, Tomoharu Eguchi1, Jim Carretta1, Camryn D. Allen1, Dan Prosperi1, Rodrigo Rangel2, James W. Gilpatrick Jr. 1, Karin Forney3, S. Hoyt Peckham

1Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
2Iemanya, La Paz, BC, Mexico
3NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
4Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University, Monterey, CA 93940 USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Pacific Coast of the Baja California Peninsula (BCP), Mexico, is a hotspot for foraging loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta originating from nesting beaches in Japan. The BCP region is also known for anthropogenic sea turtle mortality that numbers thousands of turtles annually. To put the conservation implications of this mortality into biological context, we conducted aerial surveys to determine the distribution and abundance of loggerhead turtles in the Gulf of Ulloa, along the BCP Pacific Coast. Each year from 2005 to 2007, we surveyed ca. 3700 km of transect lines, including areas up to 140 km offshore. During these surveys, we detected loggerhead turtles at the water’s surface on 755 occasions (total of 785 loggerheads in groups of up to 7 turtles). We applied standard line-transect methods to estimate sea turtle abundance for survey data collected during good to excellent sighting conditions, which included 447 loggerhead sightings during ~6400 km of survey effort. We derived the proportion of time that loggerheads were at the surface and visible to surveyors based on in situ dive data. The mean annual abundance of 43226 loggerhead turtles (CV = 0.51, 95% CI range = 15017 to 100444) represents the first abundance estimate for foraging North Pacific loggerheads based on robust analytical approaches. Our density estimate confirms the importance of the BCP as a major foraging area for loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific. In the context of annual mortality estimates of loggerheads near BCP, these results suggest that up to 11% of the region’s loggerhead population may perish each year due to anthropogenic and/or natural threats. We calculate that up to 50% of the loggerhead turtles residing in the BCP region in any given year will die within 15 yr if current mortality rates continue. This underscores the urgent need to minimize anthropogenic and natural mortality of local loggerheads.

KEY WORDS: Baja California Peninsula · Mexico · Caretta caretta · Distance sampling · Line‑transect analysis · g(0) · Abundance · Density

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Cite this article as: Seminoff JA, Eguchi T, Carretta J, Allen CD and others (2014) Loggerhead sea turtle abundance at a foraging hotspot in the eastern Pacific Ocean: implications for at-sea conservation. Endang Species Res 24:207-220.

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