The Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA), the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (NMMBA), and the Taitung County Government today (20th) announced the release of protected loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) into the wild along the coast of Taitung. This is the first time that the OCA has installed a satellite transmitter on a rescued and recovered loggerhead sea turtle, so that scientists and experts can better understand the possible distribution of loggerhead turtles in the surrounding waters of Taiwan through the subsequent migration information of this sea turtle.
Loggerhead turtles are found in subtropical and temperate waters in three oceans and have nine distinct population segments. The North Pacific subpopulation uses Japan as its primary spawning habitat, and inhabits the Pacific Ocean as far as the California coast of the United States. This 67cm long, 37kg, loggerhead sea turtle is believed to be a female, and was a bycatch of gillnetting fishing operations off the coast of Donghe Township in Taitung County on March 1, 2022. The fishermen that discovered the turtle reported the catch to the Coast Guard. The specimen showed signs of entanglement in nets and some wounds on the forelimbs, and was sent by the Taitung County Government to the NMMBA under the Marine Animal Rescue Network (MARN) mechanism.
The OCA stated that after 2 months of treatment, the loggerhead sea turtle rehabilitated well from the wounds on the front and hind limbs, with no mental or behavioral abnormalities, and was confirmed to have recovered after blood sampling and radiological diagnosis by a veterinarian. As there have been no records of loggerhead turtles discovered in southern Taiwan, and according to historical data from satellite tracking of loggerhead turtles caught in gillnetting operations in Yilan County in the past, the hot spots for turtles are located in the northeast Taiwan waters to the East China Sea. Therefore, in order to avoid the rehabilitated turtle spending too much effort to find its way home, it was decided to take it back to the eastern coast of Taiwan for wild release after discussion with the rescue team of the NMMBA. It is also hoped that the satellite tracker installed on the turtle will allow better understanding of the turtle’s range of activities in eastern Taiwan for reference in subsequent sea turtle conservation projects.
The OCA calls on the public to call the Coast Guard "118" hotline or notify the respective county or city marine conservation agencies if they find a sea turtle stranded or in need of rescue, and to provide as much detail as possible about the location, time and description of the animal's condition, in order to allow the professional teams of the MARN to proceed to the rescue site in the shortest possible time. This will help sea turtles have a better chance of returning to the sea in good health and safely.
Responsible Authority and Spokesperson: Wu Long-Jing, OCA Deputy Director-General
Contact number: 07-3383202 or 0919-613-467
Issue date: May 20, 2022