Even though the race is officially done, we are still curious about where our leatherback racers are out in the ocean! Our 2015-2016 Great Canadian Turtle Race, which tracked female leatherback turtles concluded last week, on March 3rd, after 18 weeks of racing from their summer feeding grounds of the eastern coast of Canada, throughout the Atlantic Ocean to their southern nesting beaches. This year we monitored four leatherback turtles as they raced to their nesting grounds; Agile Abigail, Rev It Bev, Cruisin’ Christie and la petite demone Sharon. We also kept pace with the winner from the 2013 Great Canadian Turtle Race Red Rockette, who kept the turtles on track virtually.
As soon as our race launched on October 31st 2015, our turtles were off to a quick start. Within the first three weeks of the race, we lost contact with both Cruisin’ Christie and la petite demone Sharon. Unfortunately, we cannot be certain why these turtles have gone offline, but we can make educated guesses to why the signal stops recording. This can be a result of biofouling, the accumulation of algae and barnacles that accumulate on the tag and cause the tag to stop sending signals. But the race went on in hopes that our disappearing turtles would hopefully resurface on our map! Beverly, our turtle who was swimming out in the middle of the Atlantic, also went offline in mid-December, leaving Abigail on sole competitor. Abi, a Florida nester and our winner, made it all the way to coastal Florida waters and was meandering around before she too also went offline in late February.
Although our turtles have all gone offline, they are still out there swimming! As it is approaching peak nesting season – the first leatherback turtles was recorded on Wednesday, February 24th in Florida nesting on Juno Beach – our partners, the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, are in contact with other marine turtle groups in various countries including Florida and Trinidad. These conservation groups are actively ramping up their nightly beach patrols and waiting for these ladies. Although we often think of these turtles as uniquely Canadian, they truly are a global species and require conservation efforts from a variety of conservation groups worldwide to ensure their protection. Canadian Sea Turtle Network has connected with some of their partners who are involved in Sharon, Christie, Bev and Abigail’s stories to give us a better understanding of how they are connected to these leatherbacks.
Nature Seekers, a conservation group in Trinidad, is a leader in leatherback turtle conservation on Matura beach, where, where Bev, Sharon and Christie previously nested. See what they had to say about their experience with nesting leatherback turtles. Click HERE for video.
Groups in Florida are also on the lookout for Abigail. Kelly Martin, from Florida Leatherbacks Inc. was actually part of the original conservation team that initially tagged our beloved Abigail and has had many encounters with her since! Let’s hope that Kelly and Abigail meet again this year. Click HERE for video.
As the nesting season continues, we will continue to be in touch with these groups in hopes of reconnecting with our 2015-2016 Great Canadian Turtle Race competitors!