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Leatherback turtles' newly discovered migration route may be roadmap to salvation
Date:7/15/2008

s of Playa Grande has already been made. Local villagers used to harvest the turtle eggs quite heavily, but owing to efforts on the part of pioneering leatherback researcher and coauthor Jim Spotila (Drexel University), the Leatherback Trust, and staff and volunteers from the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy, that practice has been halted locally. People who once collected eggs are now paid to protect them and tourists have been coming to see the turtles. "Turtle tourism has emerged as an alternative economy and now there is a real focus on protecting this beach," Shillinger said.

But, noting that there is still intense pressure to develop Playa Grande and that some illegal development is ongoing, Shillinger added, "This beach is more or less the last stand for nesting leatherbacks in the eastern Pacific, so if this beach goes, it's going to be a real blow."

Shillinger and his colleagues are cautiously optimistic about the impact their new data about the migration routes could have on bolstering the leatherbacks' survival rate.

"Being able to see these migratory corridors is something we only dreamed of when we started the project," said co-author Barbara Block, the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences at Hopkins Marine Station. Block is one of the researchers on the TOPP team and is Shillinger's doctoral adviser.

The level of detail the researchers obtained about when the turtles are in a particular area along their route means it could be possible to have a major impact on reducing turtles lost at sea to bycatch just by temporary closures of certain areas. Temporary closures are likely to be much more palatable than long-term ones to the various nations and regulatory agencies that would have to agree on any closures for them to be effective.

And because the turtles' migration route crosses international boundaries, it is vital to have international cooperation.

"It is still
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Contact: Dan Stober
dstober@stanford.edu
650-723-2558
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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