MEPS 589:263-268 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12483

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I3S Pattern as a mark-recapture tool to identify captured and free-swimming sea turtles: an assessment

Bruna Calmanovici1,*, David Waayers2, Julia Reisser3, Julian Clifton4, Maira Proietti

1School of Biology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
2Imbricata Environmental, 187 Fitzgerald St, West Perth, WA 6005, Australia
3The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, Martinus Nijhofflaan 2, 2624 ES Delft, The Netherlands
4UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and the Oceans Institute, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
5Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Rio Grande, RS 96203-900, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Identifying individual sea turtles is essential for understanding population dynamics and, in turn, planning conservation efforts. Traditionally, sea turtle individuals are identified through the application of external flipper tags and/or internal passive integrated transponders (PITs). However, sea turtle identification and consequently population studies are hampered by the loss of external flipper tags and migration of PITs. In this study, we assessed the accuracy and time efficiency of the Interactive Individual Identification System software (I3S Pattern v. 4.02) to photo-identify facial patterns of immature captured and free-swimming green turtles Chelonia mydas and hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata. Using a library of 436 photos representing 189 sea turtle individuals, we evaluated the accuracy and time taken for I3S Pattern to match individuals. A high proportion of individuals were successfully identified from photographs taken of captured turtles (97%) and free-swimming turtles (85%). I3S reduced data analysis time by 80% when compared to the visual assessment of photos, and is further optimised when photographs are of increased quality. These results demonstrate that I3S has great potential to contribute to population studies and management plans by facilitating both specialised research and citizen science programmes.


KEY WORDS: Interactive Individual Identification System · Photo-identification · Wildlife recognition software · Sea turtles · Mark-recapture studies


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Cite this article as: Calmanovici B, Waayers D, Reisser J, Clifton J, Proietti M (2018) I3S Pattern as a mark-recapture tool to identify captured and free-swimming sea turtles: an assessment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 589:263-268. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12483

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