Post-nesting movements and feeding ground distribution by the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) from rookeries in the Torres Strait

Barr, Claire E., Hamann, Mark, Shimada, Takahiro, Bell, Ian, Limpus, Colin, and Ferguson, Janine (2021) Post-nesting movements and feeding ground distribution by the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) from rookeries in the Torres Strait. Wildlife Research, 48 (7). pp. 598-608.

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Context: Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are conservation-dependent species in many areas of the world. A key component to ensuring successful conservation initiatives for the species is understanding their distribution and habitat use, in particular, knowing the nesting sites, migration routes and foraging areas for each genetic stock, and how these might overlap with threats.

Aims: Investigate the post-nesting movements of hawksbill sea turtles nesting in the Torres Strait, including migration movements and foraging ground size and distribution.

Methods: Nine nesting hawksbill turtles of the north-eastern Australian genetic stock were satellite-tagged between the 2010 and 2019 nesting seasons for 182 ± 143 days (mean ± s.d.).

Key results: Three turtles continued to nest on adjacent islands before commencing their post-nesting migrations. From the nine tracked turtles, the following three migration movement strategies were identified: (1) direct migration between the nesting beach and foraging ground, (2) non-direct movements with a period of meandering, and (3) establishment of two foraging areas separated by direct movement pathways. Foraging grounds were distributed across the Torres Strait and north-eastern Australia and varied in size between 0.54 km2 and 3.31 km2 (95% UD). None of the turtles migrated outside of Australian waters.

Conclusions: The localisation of these movements and habitats within Australian waters provides a unique conservation opportunity, whereby protection efforts involve multiple life stages and potentially preserve turtles from multiple genetic stocks. The variety of inter-nesting, migration and home range strategies used by the tracked turtles in the present study highlight the broad scope of hawksbill movements.

Implications: Our findings are useful for the implementation of future marine conservation areas and shed light into the nesting, migratory and foraging behaviours of hawkbills from this genetic stock. An understanding of the movement tracks and habitats used by a genetic pool is essential for well grounded implementation of conservation areas and management regulations.

Item ID: 70486
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1448-5494
Keywords: foraging, migration, nesting, satellite-tagging
Copyright Information: © CSIRO 2021
Funders: James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2022 03:50
Downloads: Total: 1
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