One green sea turtle may soon become one of the most well-known sea turtles around the world, after he clued researchers into a possible migratory “superhighway” between Costa Rica and the Galapagos last month.
Researchers from the Turtle Island Restoration Network and PRETOMA, a Costa Rican non-profit, fitted a117-pound endangered male green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with a satellite tag last month, and named him Sanjay. They were astonished to see his 14-day, 400-mile journey from the protected waters from the Cocos Island Marine National Park to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador, the second largest marine reserve in the world, according to National Geographic
“Finally seeing a turtle move from Cocos Island directly to Galapagos is absolutely amazing,” Maike Heidemeyer of PRETOMA said in a press release. “Especially because preliminary genetic research results suggests that there is a connection between green turtles at Cocos Island and the Galapagos.”
While the length of Sanjay's journey is impressive, it has much bigger implications for conservation efforts. It provides a direct connection between these two marine protected areas, and adds a significant evidence that this important migratory "superhighway" exists between Costa Rica and Galapagos Islands for sea turtles and a number of other threatened species, including sharks. Several hammerhead sharks, a silky shark, and a Galapagos shark have previously been proven to spend time at both of these reserves.
The discovery of this superhighway points to the need for better internal fishery management. While the sharks, turtles, and other species experience protection within these reserves, the pathway between them is full of dangers from commercial fishing activity, like longlines.
“These species are protected while they are in the reserves, but as soon as they swim beyond the no-fishing zone, they are being hammered by industrial fishing vessels that set millions of hooks in the region,” Turtle Island Restoration Network Todd Steiner said in the press release. “Our goal is collect the necessary scientific data to understand the migratory routes and advocate for ‘protected swimways’ to protect these endangered species though out their migration.”
Sanjay's journey also suggests that many of the resident sea turtles found at Cocos Island Marine National park were born on the nesting beaches of the Galapagos Islands.
To learn more about Sanjay and his incredible migration, check out this video by the Turtle Island Restoration Network.