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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 472:275-285 (2013)  -  DOI:

Stable isotope analysis reveals migratory origin of loggerhead turtles in the Southern California Bight

Camryn D. Allen1,*, Garrett E. Lemons2, Tomoharu Eguchi1, Robin A. LeRoux1, Christina C. Fahy3, Peter H. Dutton1, S. Hoyt Peckham4, Jeffrey A. Seminoff

1Protected Resources Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
2Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182, USA
3Southwest Regional Office, NMFS, NOAA, Long Beach, California 90802, USA
4Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias, La Paz, Baja California Sur, CP 23060, Mexico

ABSTRACT: Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta in the North Pacific are listed as Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act and the IUCN Red List. Due partly to their imperiled status, the US National Marine Fisheries Service established a time-area closure in 2003 for the California drift gillnet (CDGN) fishery operating within the Southern California Bight (SCB) to avoid incidental captures. This closure is triggered when sea surface temperatures are above normal, generally caused by El Niño-derived warm-water conditions, which is the time when loggerheads are thought to enter the SCB. Knowledge of the previous foraging grounds of loggerheads incidentally captured by the CDGN fishery in the SCB will help elucidate the oceanographic mechanisms that may influence turtle movement into this region and can assist in optimizing the environmental triggers for implementation of the SCB fishing closure. Stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis was used to determine the previous foraging grounds of loggerheads encountered in the SCB. Skin samples from loggerheads captured in the CDGN fishery were compared with skin from loggerheads in the central North Pacific, incidentally caught in the Hawaii-based longline fishery, as well as skin from turtles sampled during in-water research along the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico. The stable isotope values of CDGN-caught turtles were more similar to those from the central North Pacific than to those from Baja, indicating movements from the central North Pacific to the SCB. We elaborate on potential oceanographic mechanisms by which turtles access the SCB and provide insights that can inform future management decisions for the time-area closure.

KEY WORDS: Caretta caretta · Carbon · Nitrogen · California drift gillnet fishery · Hawaii-based longline fishery · Baja California Peninsula · Time-area closure · California Current Large Marine Ecosystem

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Cite this article as: Allen CD, Lemons GE, Eguchi T, LeRoux RA and others (2013) Stable isotope analysis reveals migratory origin of loggerhead turtles in the Southern California Bight. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 472:275-285.

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