Tracking marine turtles in Vietnam

Posted on 07 December 2006

A new satellite tracking programme to monitor green turtle populations has been successfully launched in off the south-eastern coast of Vietnam.

Hanoi, Vietnam – A new satellite tracking programme to monitor green turtle populations in Vietnam has been successfully launched off the south-eastern island of Con Dao.

The satellite tracking data will provide critical information on turtle location and movement patterns. Conservation managers can then use this information to establish marine protected areas, as well as monitor fishing activities.

"The results of the tracking project have exceeded our expectations," said  Le Xuan Ai, Director of Con Dao National Park.

To date, three of the four transmitters are fully operational. However, one device has stopped transmitting, either due to a change in the animal’s behavior (i.e. surfacing infrequently and thus minimizing the chance of sending a signal), or a technical malfunction. It is also possible the animal has died, perhaps killed by fishing gear such as gill nets or long lines.

"Even if the signal is lost or the animal killed, which we hope is not the case, the information already obtained from this project has proven invaluable for marine turtle conservation in and around Con Dao," said WWF Vietnam Marine Coordinator Keith Symington.

The satellite tracking project is a first-of-its-kind for Vietnam, complementing ongoing work being done in Con Dao National Park to protect turtle nesting beaches; the most important marine turtle nesting area in the country.

"The sea turtles at Con Dao have benefited from ten years of effective management on their nesting beaches, with tens of thousands of hatchlings being released every year," added Symington.

"Now, with the satellite project, managers and conservation workers can get a better picture of what key habitat  areas are being used by the turtles, as well as better understand their migration patterns so that their populations may be better sustained."

Although the nesting beach programme at Con Dao has proven to be a success, a great  number of marine turtle mortalities still occur after nesting. Turtles are frequently caught and killed in fishing nets.


• The Con Dao Islands are an archipelago of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, in south-eastern Vietnam. Situated at about 230km from Ho Chi Minh City, the islands comprise of 16 mountainous islands and islets.

• The satellite tracking project is linked to a new, comprehensive marine and coastal planning initiative at Con Dao, under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and supported by GEF-DANIDA, with technical services provided by WWF.

• The satellite tracking project is part of a broader marine turtle research and conservation initiative in Vietnam. The project is being led by the WWF Vietnam Country Programme, in partnership with IUCN Vietnam, the Vietnamese Ministry of Fisheries, Con Dao National Park, with support from the Danish Embassy (DANIDA) and with technical assistance from the Marine Research Foundation.

For more information:
Keith Symington, Marine Programme Coordinator
WWF Vietnam
Tel: +84 4 736 6375

Green Turtle with Satellite Tracking Applicator, Cahn Bay, Vietnam
© Keith Symington / WWF Vietnam
Green Turtle Before Released with Satellite Tracker into the Sea, Con Dao, Vietnam -October 2006
© Keith Symington / WWF Vietnam
Marine turtle being released to sea with satellite tracker. Con Dao National Park, Viet Nam.
© Keith Symington / WWF Viet Nam