Effectiveness of Flipper Tagging for Sea Turtle Management

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

Second Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Curtis Burney

Second Advisor

Wayne Witzell


Tagging is one of the only methods by which scientists are able to track and enumerate populations of migratory animals. Sea turtles are good candidates for tagging as they spend the majority of their lives in the water, traveling great distances between foraging and nesting grounds, with only the adult females emerging onto land to nest. Management of endangered sea turtles requires knowledge of population parameters and human interactions. Monitoring the effects of human activities on sea turtles can be achieved via tagging projects either in a fishery or in an area of high interaction, such as channels or power plants. This paper reviews several tagging projects conducted in association with dredging and channel maintenance projects, research cruises, power plant entrapments, incidental catchfromcoastal fisheries and stranded turtles. Tagging projects are discussed with regards to the project goals and needs, results and conclusions. Using these examples, guidelines are developed to implement effective tagging projects that may provide useful information for sea turtle managers. Recommendations include identifying clear and measurable goals consistent with management needs and sea turtle recovery measures, accurate tag data collection, analysis of tag data, publication of results, and final use and disposition of tag data and long-term recaptures. Increasing the efficiency of tagging projects mandated in Section 7 consultations and take permits may serve to generate data on the pelagic life history stages of sea turtles that in turn will assist wildlife protection agencies responsible for the recovery of the species.

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