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Identification of Important Turtle Areas for green turtles from TIHPA
Pilcher N. 2016. Identification of Important Turtle Areas for green turtles from TIHPA. Data downloaded from OBIS-SEAMAP ( on yyyy-mm-dd.

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Availability: Creative Commons License This dataset is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Marine turtles are important components of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, (SSME). Green turtles are important for maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs. more

Without constant grazing, seagrass beds may become overgrown, obstructing currents, shading the bottom, or decomposing. Seagrass beds in turn are nurseries for a number of species of commercial fish and crustaceans, including shrimp. On coral reefs, green turtles crop algae that can compete with corals. Hawksbill turtles control the population of sponges in coral reefs, which can easily out-compete corals for the same space. Through selective foraging, hawksbill turtles are able to impact the overall reef diversity. Leatherback turtles eat large quantities amounts of jellyfish, helping to keep their populations under control. Jellyfish prey on larval fish, many species of which are economically important to humans. Loggerhead turtles are known to help recirculate sediments on the seabed and distribute nutrients while they search for, and feed on, crustaceans and molluscs. On the beach, unhatched eggs, trapped hatchlings, and egg shells provide nutrients for beach vegetation, which secures the sand via root development. The loss of beach vegetation can lead to erosion, minimizing sea turtle nesting habitat, among others, but also reducing coastal resilience.

These same, ecologically important, marine turtles are threatened through ongoing egg harvests, poaching of adults by foreign fishing fleets, and as by-catch in shrimp and fish trawl fisheries. Work by the Marine Research Foundation ( estimated bycatch of turtles from the Sabah shrimp fleets alone at several thousand turtles each year. Recent reports by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and the Biodiversity Management Bureau (Philippines) have recorded several instances where Chinese fishing vessels have been apprehended with hundreds of adult and large juvenile turtles, and poaching in Malaysia and in Indonesia is on the rise. Another cause for concern lies a continued lack of knowledge of the biology and ecology of the turtles in many parts of the SSME - turtles spend 98% of their time at sea, but virtually all conservation efforts in the SSME only occur on land.

The conservation of sea turtles is thus a key priority in the SSME. Sulu-Sulawesi turtles are recognised at both National and Regional levels, and even globally: turtles are similarly a priority under the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Sea Turtles and their Habitats (IOSEA MoU), the Coral Reef Triangle (CTI) Regional Action Plan, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Sea Turtle MoU. At the National level sea turtles are completely protected in all three countries bordering the SSME. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) lists marine turtles occurring in the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA) on Appendix I, while the World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists the green turtle as Endangered, and the hawksbill as Critically Endangered. The turtles nesting in the TIHPA area were included in the top-ten priority listing for conservation by the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, and as such are among priority focus areas of this conservation initiative.

A network of protected areas to enhance sea turtle conservation in the Sulu Sulawesi was endorsed by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in 2010. The network was designed to link nesting turtles with development grounds, migration corridors and adult feeding grounds. Within the network, the most important nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles is the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA), a complex of nine islands shared by Malaysia and the Philippines. Thousands of turtles come to lay eggs on these islands each year, and they represent a valuable food and tourism commodity to local people and governments. But tailored conservation action relies on a thorough understanding of turtle population biology and ecology. One needs to know where turtles are in order to protect them. We need to know where they go as they disperse from nesting beaches, and where they grow up. We need to understand the relationship between nesting adults and developing populations, in order to understand the linkages among the various stocks.

This project entails four inter-linked components to further the understanding of the biology and ecology of sea turtles in the SSME, upon which National policy decisions and the expansion of the Tri-National Network of Protected Areas may be based. Each component addresses critical biological and reproductive traits of turtles which have previously not been studied in the SSME, and together they form a cohesive research programme which complements National projects within the Sulu Sulawesi Tri-National Sea Turtle Corridor initiative.

We are conducting laparoscopy and genetic studies to determine population structure through mixed stock analysis; tracking studies of post nesting female to determine foraging ground locations (this project component), and determining temporal habitat use in key foraging grounds in the SSME via aerial surveys.

This project component will allow us to decipher the migration paths of marine turtles and linkages between foraging and nesting populations within the important Sulu-Sulawesi biogeographic region, and to raise awareness of the importance of marine turtle populations, and will track twenty post-nesting adult turtles as they depart from their nesting sites to determine the location of subsequent feeding zones and migratory routes using satellite technology.

Data resulting from this work will inform managers of critical in–water habitats utilised by SSME turtles, and allow them to aim concerted conservation activities, including fishery regulation where applicable, to preserve turtles through all phases of their live cycle.

Only data aggregated per 1-degree cell are available through OBIS. For access to additional data, the provider needs to be contacted.

Biology > Reptiles
Marine, Conservation, Satellite tracking, ISEW, Indonesia, Sulawesi, Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 1758)

Geographical coverage
ISEW, Indonesia, Sulawesi [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
5 July 2015 - 19 March 2016

Taxonomic coverage
Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]

Habitat use, Occurrence of biota

Marine Research Foundation, moredata creator

Related datasets
Published in:
OBIS-SEAMAP: Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations, more

Dataset status: Completed
Data type: Data
Data origin: Monitoring
Metadatarecord created: 2016-05-26
Information last updated: 2016-06-01
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