MEXICO CITY – Satellite monitoring as an instrument for studying sea turtles and their environment is essential if we are to protect them effectively, Abigail Uribe Martinez, M.Sc., said.
In an interview with EFE, Uribe said the monitoring technology known as satellite telemetry consists of implanting a receiver of satellite signals in turtles’ shells.
Then, whenever the turtle rises to the surface to breathe, the device sends a signal to the satellites, which record its exact location and add another step of the route it is following, she said.
“A receiver is placed on different individuals, and it is possible to monitor up to 100 individuals at a time,” she said.
Uribe, who is studying for her doctorate in geography at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that without satellite signals it would be very difficult to have an idea about the way sea turtles migrate.
But it is very important to know where they are going and what their migration routes are, she added, particularly for large species like the giant leatherback sea turtle.
Sea turtles are detected when they reach the coasts and their nesting areas are well known, but when they take to the sea again it is hard to know where they are going or to follow their migration routes.
Mexico has five of the six species of sea turtles in the world: the loggerhead, hawksbill, lora, olive ridley and leatherback turtles.
All the species are migratory, with a global distribution in tropical and temperate waters. In Mexico they nest and feed on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
“With this technology, we can track sea turtles on their trans-Pacific migrations – for example, they migrate 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) from the coasts of Baja California in Mexico to the coasts of Japan,” she said.
Sea turtles in Mexico are considered conservation priorities, and those currently in one or another risk category are the loggerhead, hawksbill, lora and olive ridley turtles.
The expert noted the need to monitor all marine species, which face dangers like the excessive volumes of plastic in the oceans of the world.
Satellite monitoring also reveals the movements of marine species “in a way that allows us to protect them and create conservation systems in areas far from the coasts,” she said.