July 9, 2021

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A tale of 2 leatherback sea turtles tagged off Nova Scotia

Good luck, persistence and worldwide co-operation has delivered a uncommon trove of knowledge from two endangered leatherback turtles tagged off Nova Scotia final summer time.

The turtles, Ruby and Isabel, have been carrying a monitoring transmitter and a tool that saved an enormous cache of exact GPS places collected throughout their 12,000-kilometre migration from Canada to Trinidad, off South America.

This month, when the nesting leatherbacks crawled ashore on separate seashores, researchers and volunteers on the island managed to intercept them, retrieve their tags and 10 months of saved information.

“We’re really excited,” says Mike James, lead scientist with the ocean turtle unit at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“In the case of Isabel’s data, it downloaded yesterday and we had over 12,000 GPS positions that have been collected for that turtle since she was tagged last July.”

The info permits scientists to reconstruct the actions of the ocean turtles all through their migration, together with the place it is wanted most — in and round Trinidad, the nesting vacation spot for a lot of the declining northwest Atlantic inhabitants which might be in Canadian waters.

This map exhibits Isabel and Ruby traveled greater than 12,000 kilometres after being tagged off Nova Scotia. (Fisheries and Oceans)

“We know that there are a lot of threats to the turtles in those areas and there are a lot of interactions with local artisanal fisheries, and there are a lot of places where there happens to be a lot of human impact on the turtles. But we just don’t have the data to understand that very well,” James stated.

Recovering an archival tag, as it’s recognized, is uncommon.

Generally the tags fall off throughout mating or are in any other case misplaced on the journey.

Within the 20 years leatherbacks have been tagged in Atlantic Canada, archival tags have been recovered solely 4 occasions: in Panama, French Guiana and twice in Colombia. The latest case was seven years in the past.

Inside a single week in Might, two have been recovered in Trinidad.

“I have never recovered this much data from leatherbacks at one time,” James stated.

Information exhibits Isabel traveled 12,252 km. She was named by kids attending an annual sea turtle summer time camp in Halifax. (Nature Seekers, Trinidad )

It took 10 hours to course of the information Isabel was carrying.

Ruby and Isabel have been tagged two days aside in waters south of Halifax in July 2019.

Ruby is without doubt one of the greatest leatherbacks ever captured in Atlantic Canada. She is the dimensions of a pool desk and weighs a tonne. A flipper tag advised scientists she had beforehand nested in Trinidad.

Isabel had no markings.

In the summertime and fall, leatherbacks feed on jellyfish in Atlantic Canada earlier than migrating south to breed.

Information exhibits Isabel travelled 12,252 km and Ruby 12,891 km after being tagged.

Scientists have tagged greater than 400 endangered leatherback sea turtles in Atlantic Canada since 1999. Females like Isabel — seen right here being tagged off Nova Scotia in July 2019 — have archival tags hooked up that may be recovered after they come ashore to nest. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Canadian Sea Turtle Community)

The restoration operation was run out of Mike James’s Halifax house, the place he is been working because the pandemic.

When it grew to become clear the place the turtles have been headed, James acquired in contact with the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Fisheries, and conservation teams on the island.

Discovering the tagged turtles was not a certain factor.

Feminine leatherbacks nest on 10-day cycles, spending 90 minutes laying eggs on shore at evening earlier than heading again to sea and returning once more a number of extra occasions to nest.

“Generally they return to the same stretch of coastline and if you’re lucky to the same beach on that stretch of coastline. And in both cases, both these animals did that,” James stated. 

“We found out when and where they laid their initial nest. They were successfully intercepted … and their instruments were removed and new instruments were deployed on the turtles which is the next chapter.”

It took 10 hours to course of the information saved on Isabel’s archival satellite tv for pc tag. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

James provides credit score to groups in Trinidad that spent nights ready for the turtles.

One of many researchers was Kyle Mitchell, of Nature Seekers, a conservation group that pays for itself by conducting ecotourism.

He was in Nova Scotia on an trade final summer time and on board to assist tag Ruby.

Ten months later, he was readily available when Isabel first got here ashore at Matura Seaside.

Sadly, there was not sufficient time to take away the tag, so he watched her crawl again into the ocean within the hopes of getting a second likelihood.

“We were a bit skeptical that we might find her back again because usually, to get that much luck twice in a row, is not something that happens that often,” Mitchell stated. “I was very fortunate to be a part of both sides. It was definitely overwhelming. Overwhelming and tiring, but definitely worth it.”

A detailed-up of Isabel’s face. Feminine leatherbacks nest on 10-day cycles, spending 90 minutes laying eggs on shore at evening earlier than heading again to sea and returning once more a number of extra occasions to nest. (Canadian Sea Turtle Community)

The Las Cuevas Turtle Group and Nature Seekers recovered Ruby on the north coast.

With new satellite tv for pc transmitters hooked up, scientists will have the ability to observe the whole year-long migration loop when Isabel and Ruby return to Nova Scotia someday in August.

However that too was an in depth name.

Usually, Canadian scientists with monitoring tags could be in Trinidad for the nesting interval.

However this yr, COVID-19 saved them, and their tools, in Nova Scotia. When Ruby and Isabel confirmed up, tags have been rushed by courier from Nova Scotia and from colleagues in Florida.

They arrived within the nick of time.

Ruby was named after the mom of famous Acadia College scientist, Sherman Bleakney, an educational who first proposed that leatherbacks have been common guests to Atlantic Canada again within the 1960s.  (Nature Seekers, Trinidad )

“Both packages were received the week that they were needed. The one tag [from Florida] arrived the day that it was needed for the deployment on Isabel. So it was that tight,” James stated. 

“Our field arrived a day or two later, however we had about 48 hours of consolation zone ultimately earlier than that second instrument was wanted for Ruby.

“However it was an Superb Race-situation, monitoring info on the assorted courier suppliers web sites.”

With Fisheries and Oceans Canada shut down by the pandemic, it is not clear whether or not leatherback tagging will occur in Nova Scotia this summer time.

This system begins in July and no resolution has been made.

Ruby was named after the mom of famous Acadia College scientist, Sherman Bleakney, an educational who first proposed that leatherbacks have been common guests to Atlantic Canada again within the 1960s. 

Bleakney died final October.

Isabel was named by kids attending an annual sea turtle summer time camp in Halifax.

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