Document Type

Report

Department/Program

Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date

2002

Abstract

Every year, thousands of sea turtles seasonally utiliz.e the Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters of Virginia as foraging grounds and developmental habitat. Sea turtles migrate north into Virginia's waters in the spring when sea temperatures warm to approximately 18° C (Coles, 1999). Since 1979, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has recorded high sea turtle mortalities in the spring of the year when sea turtles first migrate into Virginia's waters. Each year, between 200 and 400 sea turtle stranding deaths are recorded within Virginia's waters. The vast majority of 1hese strandings are juvenile loggemead (Caretta caretta) and Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) sea turtles. Historic stranding data show that 50.0% to 55.0% of the yearly turtle deaths occur in May and Jmie when the turtles first enter the Bay (Lutcavage, 1981; Lutcavage and Musick, 1985; Keinath et al., 1987; Coles 1999; Mansfield et al., 2002). At the time when stranding coW1ts are highest, mean water temperatures range between 18° and 22° C (Coles, 1999). Kemp's ridleys also have an additional peak in strandings in 1he fall (October and November) when temperatures begin to drop (Lutcavage and Musick, 1985; Coles, 1999).

Despite research efforts over the past 24 years, many questions still remain regarding the sources of spring mortalities. State stranding counts have risen steadily over the last ten years (Mansfield et al., 2002). This increase may in part be due to either intensified fishing interactions, an increase in the sea turtle population. To address this problem, VIMS, Wlder contract and supplemental fimding from 1he National Marine Fisheries Service and Virginia's Commercial Fishing Advisory Board, conducted aerial, swface and sub-surface fisheries surveys and aerial sea turtle population surveys in the Chesapeake Bay during the 2001 season. (...)

Keywords

Sea turtles -- Chesapeake Bay (Md. and Va.), Sea turtles -- Mortality -- Chesapeake Bay (Md. and Va.)

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