Why NMA is tracking Gilbert the green turtle
CITY marine experts are tracking a travelling turtle as part of a pioneering conservation project.
The National Marine Aquarium has sponsored a satellite-tagging device that has been strapped to green turtle Gilbert.
The endangered sub-adult creature had spent nearly a year foraging around the Turks and Caicos Islands, in the Caribbean, since being tagged last summer.
But now he is on the move – and in a matter of days has strayed more than 100 miles north, heading for what is thought to be either the Bahamas or Florida.
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Scientists are hoping Gilbert's tag battery lasts long enough to complete what would be one of the first sub-adult green turtle developmental migrations ever tracked.
National Marine Aquarium managing director Dr David Gibson said: "We're pleased to see that Gilbert looks to have started this important migration.
"Green turtles have been known to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from their breeding grounds, but it's notoriously difficult to find out exactly how far they have travelled and when.
"It will be very interesting to understand more about this migration pattern with Gilbert's tracker.
"The project is providing detailed, real-time scientific research which helps to further our understanding of these fascinating creatures, and crucially provides information to help develop strategies for conservation."
Gilbert and his partner-turtle David were among nine of the species to be tagged as part of the Turks and Caicos Islands' Turtle Project.
Spearheaded by the Marine Conservation Society, the study is the first of its kind since 1998.
Experts believe Gilbert is heading for the Bahamas or the Florida coast, where there are good seagrass beds for adult turtle foraging.
Dr Peter Richardson, biodiversity programme manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said: "The last time this type of migration was tracked was in 1998, when a sub-adult green turtle travelled from feeding grounds off Bermuda.
"But it was caught en route by a fisher in Cuba's inshore waters, so we didn't find out where that turtle was heading.
"We hope Gilbert safely gets to where he is going, wherever that may be."
Anybody can track Gilbert's journey online by visiting www.mcsuk.org.