While in Greece, I jumped on the opportunity to participate in a new Archelon project in the Amvrakikos Gulf. Loggerheads and other sea turtles do not nest in this area, but it is an active feeding ground, and the shallow areas (chest-height water) provide Archelon with a venue for capturing sea turtles in daylight for data collection and tagging.
Last year, funds became available to support satellite tagging of the turtles. This year we are limited to metal tags which depend on recaptures or nesting night surveys (females only) for continued monitoring.
For this project, the day’s journey begins on a small inflatable boat with three people. The driver carefully zig-zags across the bay while the jumper stands on the bow looking for turtles.
When a turtle is spotted, we follow it until the jumper is able to capture it.
Once on board, a wet towel is placed over the turtle’s eyes to help reduce stress and calm the animal. The turtle is checked for previous tags and injuries. The carapace and tail are measured and all scutes are counted. A metal tag is applied to each of the front flippers, and a tissue sample is taken from one of the hind flippers. Photographs of the carapace, flippers, head, and tags are taken. The GPS location of the capture is saved and recorded.
Sometimes another turtle is spotted while one is already in the boat. It can get crowded, but we make it work!
After the data has been collected, the turtles are released back to sea.
In this glass-like gulf, we can often see the wake left by a released turtle.
And then we are on to the next one!