NOAA researchers and their international partners in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands are using satellite transmitter technology to track the endangered leatherback sea turtle across the Pacific Ocean. Transmitters attached to the carapace of the turtle send signals to satellites providing researchers with information on the animals' geographic location, diving behavior, and sea temperatures.
Recently, a female leatherback sea turtle was tracked for 647 days and 12,744 miles during its journey from a nesting beach of Papua, Indonesia to its foraging area off the Pacific coast of the United States of America.
This international collaborative effort allows researchers to learn what migratory routes and foraging habitat are used by these endangered ambassadors of the sea. Understanding sea turtles' movements is critical to understanding what habitat is important for their survival and recovery and ensuring their protection as they pass through multiple nation's territories and international waters.
Leatherback populations face threats from egg harvesting, fishery bycatch, ingestion of debris, direct harvest, and habitat loss. Satellite tracking technology is one tool allowing NOAA researchers to unlock secrets of the incredible journeys of this species, allowing us to better understand where they go, what threats they might face at sea, and what management efforts will be required to ensure this species' survival. The new technology can be used in all the world's oceans and is being used for other sea turtle and non-sea turtle species research.
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