The Bahamian archipelago is made up of a mosaic of inter-connected coastal ecosystems that include patch reefs, mangroves creeks, and shallow seas. Within these diverse habitats, green Chelonia mydas, hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, and loggerhead Caretta caretta turtles can be found in substantial numbers. At the Cape Eleuthera Institute, we are monitoring the population status of these three turtle species in the waters of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. As it is estimated that sea populations in the Caribbean have declined by over 97 % in the past few decades, knowledge of their current population trends is essential for guiding conservation efforts. As sea turtles are also keystone species, knowledge of whether their populations are recovering or declining also helps provide a broad-scale indicator of the health of Caribbean ecosystems.
The foundation of the sea turtle research program at CEI is a long-term mark-recapture initiative. Using a combination of metal ID tags and photo ID technologies, we have been able to track these turtles since 2011. We have also used a wide-variety of other technologies, such as animal-borne cameras; drones; radio, acoustic, and satellite telemetry devices, and 3D accelerometers to investigate the ecology of these animals.
Sea turtles form an essential component in maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs. Without sea turtles, these habitats would quickly become overrun by algae. As seagrass beds and coral reefs support both local fisheries and ecotourism, sustaining these ecosystems and the turtles that live within them is essential for countless Bahamians.
NOAA - Our Way Together
University of West Florida
University of Florida
West Connecticut University
For more information, contact Nathan Robinson.