Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date

12-11-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Curtis M. Burney

Second Advisor

James D. Thomas

Third Advisor

Lis Bach

Abstract

Anecdotal reports, flipper tag returns, satellite migration paths, and above-water and net surveys have identified an important foraging area for sea turtles in the Robinson Point area, 12 kilometers southwest of Belize City. Visual observations confirmed that sea turtles were actively foraging at Robinson Point. Sixteen 30 minute visual observations from stationary and drifting boats made 132 sea turtle sightings from October 2007 through January 2008, with a maximum of 40 sightings made in one survey. In-water capture methodology tested the traditional turtle net, which captured 14 turtles in 63 sets for a success rate of only 22%. There were 11 green turtles captured during the migratory months from April through October, and three hawksbill turtles were captured during non-migratory months, November through March, indicating that both species were resident at Robinson Point. No loggerheads, adult males, or juvenile turtles were captured, but anecdotal reports confirmed presence. Size range for captured hawksbills was between 63.7 - 80.4 cm SCLnn and between 70.9 - 91.5 cm SCLnn for green turtles. There were two recaptured turtles. One was a nesting hawksbill tagged in Mexico in 2008 and recaptured at Robinson Point in 2009, and the other was a sub adult hawksbill that was captured at Robinson Point in 2008 and recaptured in 2013 in Nicaragua. There was a small growth of fibropapilloma on one green turtle. Habitat surveys suggest benthic communities are more diverse than previously described consisting of prey items sought by sea turtles. Geomorphology of the Robinson Point area is equally diverse and provides shelter for resident turtles. Proposed boundaries for a turtle conservation zone at Robinson Point and an internesting zone to protect turtles at Belize premier hawksbill nesting beach at Gales Point, are linked to existing protected areas, and would facilitate protection of sea turtles not only in Belize, but also throughout the Caribbean.

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