This year California has seen an increase in sea surface temperatures (SST) as part of the recent El Nino event occurring that is predicted to last into 2017. El Nino events are part of oceanographic variations called El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that take place in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. An El Nino is defined as an episode when the 3-month average sea-surface temperature departure exceeds 0.5°C in the east-central equatorial Pacific [between 5°N-5°S and 170°W-120°W].
These warmer waters have brought a variety of uncommon species to the Souther California Bight. During a swordfish research cruise with Pfleger Institute of Environment Research we stubbled upon a huge floatopia of juvenile loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Using this information and others provided from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cruise scientists were able to predict where they would be able to find these juveniles and attach satellite tags.
These images are from that cruise where scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) were able to attach the first satellite tag to a loggerhead off the West Coast of the USA was attached. This information is not only extremely important to help understand the "lost years," the early years of a sea turtle’s life when their migration patterns were mostly unknown, of these turtles but also to help inform fisheries management officials. To help protect sea turtles, NOAA created the Loggerhead Conservation Area off the coast of Southern California that shuts down the gillnet fishery when an El Nino event occurs. This information will show if turtles are using the same area as swordfish (targeted with gillnets) and if a closure is always needed.
The first turtle to be released was named "Coco" by scientists and can her movements can be tracked here.
All images were taken under NMFS permit # 14510