Patterns of dispersal of hawksbill turtles from the Cuban shelf inform scale of conservation and management

F Moncada, L Hawkes, M Fish, B.J. Godley, Charlie Manolis, Y Medina, G Nodarse, Grahame Webb

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    Conserving and managing populations of marine vertebrates can be complex when they occupy the waters of multiple nations, crossing heterogeneous legal and management landscapes. Hawksbill turtles (. Eretmochelys imbricata) are subject to varying levels of use in Caribbean countries and their conservation and management is complicated by the extent to which they are a 'shared' resource. In 1997 and 2000, Cuba attempted to 'downlist' hawksbills from Cuban waters to CITES Appendix II to allow limited international trade. The research on movement and dispersal of hawksbills reported here was undertaken to better inform discussion about the impacts of their harvest. Flipper tagging and satellite tracking demonstrate that the majority of study turtles remained in Cuban territorial waters. Of 1170 hawksbills tagged (525 adults and 606 juveniles), 12% (. n=. 143) were recaptured. All recaptured adults (. n=. 16 males, 38 nesting females and 30 adult females in-water) were in Cuban waters. Of the 59 juveniles recaptured, only four recaptures were outside Cuban waters (Nicaragua. =. 2, Colombia. =. 1, USA. =. 1). Fourteen hawksbills tagged in the waters of other nations were recaptured in Cuban waters. We also satellite tracked 21 turtles (one adult male, ten nesting females and ten non-nesting adult females), of which five tags failed, 11 stayed in Cuban waters for the duration of transmissions (1-809. days) and five foraged in the waters of other nations (Mexico . n=. 1 an adult female; Honduras . n=. 2, both post-nesting turtles; Colombia . n=. 1 an adult female; and the eastern Lesser Antilles . n=. 1, an adult male), with differences for nesting and non-nesting turtles. Our results, demonstrating extended site fidelity within Cuban waters, suggest that strengthening national management within national jurisdictions that host hawksbill turtles is fundamental to improving regional conservation as a whole.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)191-199
    Number of pages9
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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