, Volume 160, Issue 12, pp 3071-3086

Foraging habitats and migration corridors utilized by a recovering subpopulation of adult female loggerhead sea turtles: implications for conservation

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From 1998 to 2008, 68 adult female loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) were instrumented with platform transmitter terminals at nesting beaches in Georgia, North Carolina (NC) and South Carolina (SC) on the East Coast of the United States of America (30°48′N, 81°28′W to 33°51′N, 77°59′W). The majority of post-nesting loggerheads (N = 42, 62 %) migrated to foraging habitats in the Mid-Atlantic Bight during May–October, with a subsequent migration occurring during November–March to foraging habitats south of Cape Hatteras, NC. Nine (13 %) loggerheads initially foraged in the near-shore, coastal areas of the South Atlantic Bight, but moved to offshore habitats—closer to the Gulf Stream—during November–March, while fourteen (21 %) loggerheads remained in foraging areas along the mid-continental shelf off of the eastern coast of Florida and/or continued southward to Florida Bay and the Bahamas. The present study delineates important, post-nesting foraging habitats and migration corridors where loggerheads may interact with commercial fisheries—providing managers opportunities to develop and implement optimally effective conservation actions for the recovery of this threatened species.

Communicated by R. Lewison.
DuBose B. Griffin has resigned from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Sally R. Murphy, John W. Coker, and Thomas M. Murphy have retired from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.