Sanjay, a tagged green sea turtle completed a 14-day migration from the Cocos Island Marine National Park in Costa Rica to the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador. Sanjay is the first turtle recorded to directly link these two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), giving insight into the biological connectivity between the MPAs and highlighting the importance of protecting the migratory routes of endangered species.
Sanjay was one of three green sea turtles tagged at Cocos Island in June as part of a research expedition run by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and PRETOMA, led by 2004 Whitley Gold Award winner, Randall Arauz. The aim of the expedition was to document the migration routes of endangered sea turtles and understand how they use MPAs. Over 100 turtles have been tagged with satellite transmitters by these two organisations since 2009. However, Sanjay is the first sea turtle to have migrated between these two particular MPAs, along with a number of hammerhead sharks, a silky shark and a Galapagos shark.
There is limited information about the geographic distribution of juvenile and male green turtles like Sanjay; therefore this new tracking data is vital for targeting conservation efforts in the future. However, Sanjay’s migration route poses a significant risk to the species. Once turtles and other endangered species swim beyond the no-fishing zone of the MPAs, they are decimated by industrial fishing vessels with long line fishing gear.
Following Sanjay’s journey, Randall has urged the many international initiatives that aim to improve marine conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, to focus on direct action to protect turtles from unsustainable fishing practices, one of the main threats to sea turtles in the region. The Turtle Island Restoration Network is now advocating the development of ‘protected swimways’ to ensure protection of species throughout their migration.
Meanwhile, Sanjay the green sea turtle is on the move again, with the latest recording suggesting he is heading to nesting grounds at Isabela Island, the largest island of the Galapagos.