Yesterday we had a very interesting and different experience here at TERRA AZUL. The experts of COSTA (Consolidating Sea Turtle conservation in the Azores) came over from the island of Faial, to give us a workshop in Turtle Tagging.
Here in the Azores, 5 species of sea turtles are registered from the beginning of times, however, about 95% of encounters it is the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). The reason for this high number of Loggerhead turtles in the Azores is that the young ones that are born near Florida in the USA, follow the Gulf Stream, which can bring them all the way to the Azores only in a matter of months. Here they stay between 7 to 12 years, the time for growing up and become adults. At this stage they leave and return to their home off the coasts of Florida where they spend additional 10-15 years before they are ready to lay their eggs. Other species that may be sighted in the Azores are the Green sea turtle, Leatherback turtle, Kemp turtle and Hawksbill turtle. However, these species are less frequently seen as they seem to don’t follow the same pattern as the loggerheads.
We have counted up to 21 Loggerhead turtles during a single Whale watch trip (this was in the summer of 2017) making our coastal waters the perfect spot to contribute to COSTA’s tagging program. From now on, whenever we sight any of the turtle species during our trips, we will try to catch them carefully, and place 1 tag in each frontal flipper. TERRA AZUL is always happy to participate in ongoing research, and we cannot wait to see where our tagged flippered friends will be recorded to be seen.
Each tag holds a code which is specific to the individual turtle and is estimated to hold onto their flippers for 2 to 3 years. Each time we capture a turtle we write down biological and demographic data, and also check if there is already a tag on its flippers. If it is, we notify COSTA and they keep track of where that turtle was tagged, seen before, and its migration pattern.
So from now on, come join us for whale and dolphin watching and potentially sea turtle science! Don’t forget to give COSTA a call if you found a stranded sea turtle, by calling the number: 00351 912233518, and to visit their site.