Use of Long-Distance Migration Patterns of an Endangered Species to Inform Conservation Planning for the World’s Largest Marine Protected Area

Large marine protected areas (MPAs), each hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, have beenset up by governments around the world over the last decade as part of efforts to reduce ocean biodiversitydeclines, yet their efficacy is hotly debated. The Chagos Archipelago MPA (640,000 km2) (Indian Ocean) liesat the heart of this debate. We conducted the first satellite tracking of a migratory species, the green turtle(Chelonia mydas), within the MPA and assessed the species’ use of protected versus unprotected areas. Wedeveloped an approach to estimate length of residence within the MPA that may have utility across migratorytaxa including tuna and sharks. We recorded the longest ever published migration for an adult cheloniidturtle (3979 km). Seven of 8 tracked individuals migrated to distant foraging grounds, often ࣙ1000 kmoutside the MPA. One turtle traveled to foraging grounds within the MPA. Thus, networks of small MPAs,developed synergistically with larger MPAs, may increase the amount of time migrating species spend withinprotected areas. The MPA will protect turtles during the breeding season and will protect some turtles ontheir foraging grounds within the MPA and others during the first part of their long-distance postbreedingoceanic migrations. International cooperation will be needed to develop the network of small MPAs neededto supplement the Chagos Archipelago MPA.
Esteban Nicole , Hayes Graeme , Mortimer Jeanne .
Argos, Chagos, Chelonia, GPS tracking, MPA, reserve