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© From left to right: WWF / Ronald PETOCZ; WWF / Roger LeGUEN; WWF / Michel GUNTHER

Tracking the movement of leatherbacks in the Atlantic

From left to right: A female leatherback turtle leaves a beach in French Guiana after nesting; About 60 days later, hatchlings come out of the nest and head to the sea; Adult leatherback caught in a net.
Scientists estimate that about 50,000 leatherback turtles - a Critically Endangered species - are caught each year as bycatch in fisheries longlines.

Observer data from 1992-1999 reveals that the number of leatherbacks caught in the U.S. Atlantic longline fishery ranges from 308 to 1054 anually, with an estimated 50% mortality.

To tackle this problem in the Atlantic, the WWF Marine Turtle Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean and its partners are carrying out the following project:
Movements of Atlantic Leatherback Turtles
Steps Toward Bycatch Reduction and Trans-oceanic Cooperation for Conservation

Leatherbacks can travel extensively across the Atlantic. Recent studies illustrate the complex nature of their movements in the Northern Atlantic, where the routes seem highly individualized rather than clustered in distinct migration corridors.
Find out more about leatherbacks

Few routes have been ever recorded in the central and southern Atlantic, where their movements are by-and-large unknown.

What we are doing
This project will set up the platform for the compilation and dissemination of travel route information about the trans-oceanic movements of leatherback turtles, for the subsequent design of measures to reduce by-catch mortality in Atlantic fisheries.

  • More knowledge: The project will also increase the knowledge about the movements of leatherbacks in the Atlantic basin by satellite-tracking at least eight marine turtles from Panama, French Guiana, Uruguay and Gabon.
  • More transmitters: The study should trigger subsequent deployment of more transmitters, as part of the follow-up by WWF, and will therefore contribute toward the identification of hot-spots of interaction between leatherbacks and fisheries. We are aiming to fit a total of 25 leatherbacks with satellite transmitters.
  • More awareness: The communications material produced by this project will be used to raise awareness about the conservation needs of leatherbacks and the value of international, trans-oceanic collaboration to this end.

This project consists of a team effort involving scientists and conservation institutions, as well as WWF offices, from Latin America and Africa.


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