MarineTraffic Blog

Innovative programme to track turtles using AIS

MarineTraffic has joined a research cooperative that aims to track and analyse the movements of turtles in the Mediterranean, in an effort to help the long term future of the species.

MarineTraffic network member ICTS SOCIB and NGO ALNITAK, with the collaboration of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA-CSIC), the Palma Aquarium Foundation and the Government of the Balearic Islands, have started an innovative multi-platform research experiment called Oceanographic Turtles (funds granted by the BBVA Foundation).

Its aim is to analyse fine-scale patterns of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in relation to oceanographic elements and human activities in the Mediterranean. The final goal of this experimental programme is to provide the scientific foundation for the development of risk mitigation techniques. This will cover technological measures ranging from operational adaptations (e.g. hook, bait and depth of long-line fishing) to 3D spatial management tools as risk zoning and forecasting maps.

The Oceanographic Turtles experiment facilitates the integration of turtle movements and also incorporates and processes with other multi-platform (among others collected by UAVs) and multi-disciplinary information. Sources include AIS data from MarineTraffic Data Services (API), electronic tags to track the movements of sea turtles, surface drifters to measure water currents and, an ocean glider to follow the turtle tracks and provide 3D biophysical information at a fine-scale. It also incorporates numerical models that provide oceanographic data at broader scales.

Highlighting the importance of observing and forecasting systems based in the Mediterranean, Dr. Joaquin Tintoré, Director of SOCIB, said “The Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea, essentially a small-scale ocean laboratory characterised by significant changes in the circulation of currents and related ecosystem response and with a key socio economic impact for European citizens.
SOCIB turtle Mediterranean

Thus, ocean processes can be studied and monitored and findings be of global interest.

“Within this context, and since it was conceived SOCIB provides streams of oceanographic data and modelling services to support operational oceanography in a European and International framework,” Dr. Tintoré said.

“We are particularly proud about SOCIB being an Ocean Observing and Forecasting System in the Mediterranean with a mission and objectives driven by science, technology and society needs. SOCIB, as part of the Large Scale Infrastructures Programme from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, is already an ongoing example of the new Marine Research Infrastructures that are continuously being established internationally,” added Dr Tintoré.

Dr. David March, Post-doctoral Researcher in SOCIB, shares the motivation and milestones achieved after the integration of vessel monitoring in the multi-platforms of SOCIB.

“SOCIB has installed five AIS antennas in the Balearic Islands during last year in order to get a good coverage of the Western Mediterranean region. Those antennas have been integrated into the MarineTraffic system, and data is accessed throughout the MarineTraffic API. AIS data has been key to assess ship-based activities and conduct risk-based analyses (eg. to deploy oceanographic instruments into low density areas). In Oceanographic turtles, this information is highly relevant to analyse the interaction of human activities (eg. fishing effort or maritime traffic) with endangered species such as loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and define new ocean dynamic management tools,” Dr. March said.

* Images supplied by SOCIB and the OASIS Project.
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Miluše is Academic Relations at MarineTraffic. Since 2013, she is responsible for the management of Academic accounts, Partnerships and Science.