Joe Ruak & Jessy Hapdei
apply a satellite tag to
an adult green turtle
Photo- Tammy Summers
In a project supported by the CNMI Department of Lands & Natural Resources (DLNR) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a satellite tag was deployed May 25, 2011 on a green sea turtle within Bird Island Marine Sanctuary, Saipan. This nesting turtle was chosen to be the first satellite tagged turtle in Saipan’s history! Upon release early Wednesday morning, the turtle crawled back into the Philippine Sea with her new hardware fiber-glassed to the back of her shell. The turtle’s name is Kumiko, in dedication and memorial to a volunteer and friend to the CNMI Sea Turtle Program who passed away after a fight with cancer on the same evening this turtle emerged to nest. NOAA contractor Tammy Summers said “we thought it was an appropriate name not only to honor Kumiko’s legacy of helping sea turtle conservation, but also as a tribute to her Japanese ancestral roots and recognition of hardships that the Japanese people have endured these past months.” Only time will tell where this turtle is headed. Turtles satellite tagged by the Guam Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resource staff in 2007 traveled to the Philippines and Japan. Sea turtles that nest in the CNMI only stay long enough to mate and lay several nests and are off again to their next destination: foraging grounds. These foraging grounds are places where turtles find food and shelter for several years until they return to their nesting grounds to lay eggs on Saipan beaches again. Satellite tags are radio transmitters that send signals to satellites orbiting earth. Information from the satellite is then relayed to computers via the ARGOS system. Scientists then plot
tracks and produce maps showing the migration routes of each tagged turtle. Satellite tagging provides immediate and detailed information on turtle movements, dive time, and water temperature, showing the actual route taken to foraging areas by turtles after nesting. Once Kumiko has left Saipan’s nesting grounds and her tag is registered online; scientists, schoolchildren, and members of the community alike will be able to track her progress on www.ihaggan.com. Future plans for the CNMI DLNR Sea Turtle Program include deploying two more satellite tags this nesting season, involving community participants such as Kagman High School Marine Biology Club members and Turtle Advocate & Guardian Society (TAGS) volunteers. The next satellite tagged turtles will be given Chamorro and Carolinian names suggested by local students. We hope to use the information gained from this study not only as a teaching tool for students, but to further CNMI sea turtle conservation efforts. The DLNR Sea Turtle Program looks forward to partnering with international agencies that are responsible for managing turtle issues in their foraging grounds, wherever they may be, to ensure protection of these species at home and abroad.
By: Tammy Summers, NOAA Contract Biologist