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Asia Dive News : Satellite tracking marine turtles in Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam A new satellite tracking programme to monitor green turtle populations in Vietnam has been successfully launched at Con Dao Island.

The satellite tracking data will provide critical information on key areas being used by the turtles. Conservation managers can then use this information to establish marine protected areas, as well as monitor fishing activities.

"The results of the tracking project have exceeded our expectations," said  Le Xuan Ai, Director of Con Dao National Park.

"Transmitters were successfully applied to four green sea turtles, but only three are transmitting data on their location and movement patterns."

Unfortunately, one of the four turtles initally tagged went out of radio contact within a couple of weeks, indicating either a technical malfunction or that is has died, either through natural causes or being trapped and killed by fishing nets.

Though fitted with tags and contact numbers, WWF experts say that if the turtle has been killed, there is a slim chance of finding out the cause or gathering more information.

The satellite tracking project is a first-of-its-kind for Vietnam, complementing ongoing work being done in Con Dao National Park to protect turtle nesting beaches; the most important marine turtle nesting area in the country.

"The sea turtles at Con Dao have benefited from ten years of effective management on their nesting beaches, with tens of thousands of hatchlings being released every year," said WWF Vietnam Marine Coordinator Keith Symington.

"Now, with the satellite project, managers and conservation workers can get a better picture of what key habitat  areas are being used by the turtles, as well as better understand their migration patterns so that their populations may be better sustained."

Although the nesting beach programme at Con Dao has proven to be a success, a great  number of marine turtle mortalities still occur after nesting. Turtles are frequently caught and killed in fishing nets.

The satellite tracking project is linked to a new, comprehensive marine and coastal planning initiative at Con Dao, under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and supported by GEF-DANIDA, with technical services provided by WWF.

The satellite tracking project is part of a broader marine turtle research and conservation initiative in Vietnam. The project is being led by the WWF Vietnam Country Programme, in partnership with IUCN Vietnam, the Vietnamese Ministry of Fisheries, Con Dao National Park, with support from the Danish Embassy (DANIDA) and with technical assistance from the Marine Research Foundation.

Source: WWF