Monday, February 11, 2008

Leatherback turtle tracked on epic 13,000-mile journey

London, Feb 10 : Us researchers have tracked a leatherback turtle that swam for an epic 13,000-mile journey, in what may be the longest trip for marine vertebrae between breeding and feeding sites.

With the help of a satellite-tracking device, researchers tracked the creature swimming from Indonesia to Oregon and back to Hawaii. The researchers said that the swim would have been even more impressive if the satellite-tagging device strapped to the turtle been able to continue to transmit data after 647 successive days. The battery ran out close to Hawaii. During the journey, the turtle dived as much as 1,000 metres (3,300ft) below the surface of the waves into complete darkness. By tagging turtles, researchers are looking forward to learn more about their needs and routes, the better to be able to conserve the animals. Scott Benson, from the US National Marine Fisheries Service, estimated that only 5,000 female leatherbacks survive in the Pacific Ocean. He said that with so few of the creatures left, having first evolved about 100 million years ago, measures to protect them from being caught in fishing nets or choked to death by plastic refuse are likely to be needed to save it from extinction. "Understanding sea turtles' and other marine animals' movements in this way is critical to ensuring their protection," Times Online quoted him, as saying. "Ocean-going animals often pass through multiple nations' territories and international waters as they migrate, making their survival the responsibility of not just one nation but many," he added. Benson and his colleague Dr Peter Dutton went to Indonesia hoping to track some turtles using satellite transmitters, confirm their trans-Pacific route and prompt action to prevent their extinction.

Their research showed the animals ranged from the South China Sea to the Sea of Japan and the North Pacific.
In a study for the Chelonian Research Institute, based in the US, Benson and his colleague, Dr Peter Dutton, said: "Migrations of this magnitude expose animals to a multitude of risks from fisheries on the high seas. Effective conservation requires a better understanding of migratory routes and destinations to understand and mitigate the risks at sea." Dr Peter Pritchard, a turtle expert and director of the Chelonian Research Institute, said: "They are masters of the ocean.

There is a tremendous amount of muscle in the front. This is a powerful fishing machine and remarkable diving machine."

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