There is a remarkable paucity of estimates of the numeric importance of sea turtles at foraging grounds. The Banc d’Arguin (BA) is a vast shallow marine area off the coast of Mauritania, known as a site of world importance for coastal migratory birds and other biodiversity, including extensive seagrass beds. We sampled foraging green turtles on the BA, and extensively tracked adult female green turtles from the Bijagós archipelago, the only significant nesting aggregation within 3000 km of the BA, to estimate the abundance of this foraging aggregation. Additionally, we used a demographic simulation to support our findings. Based on satellite tracking of adult females (n = 46), we estimate that 50 % of the nesting population from the Bijagós migrate to the BA post-nesting. We combine data on numbers nesting in the Bijagós with information on proportion migrating to the BA in the same years to conservatively estimate that 8285 adult female green turtles forage at this site. We also estimate that adult females represent only 5.6 % of the green turtles in the BA, implying that the number of turtles there is of the order of 150,000 individuals. Most of the BA enjoys effective protection as part of the Parc National du Banc d’Arguin where significant fisheries regulations are well enforced by a marine surveillance program. We show that the BA is one of the major foraging sites for green turtles nesting in the Bijagós and a site of critical importance for immature and adult green turtles in a global context.
January 1, 2023
Green turtles, Chelonia mydas, Population abundance, Foraging aggregation, Satellite tracking, Marine protected area
PUBLICATION AVAILABLE AT: Satellite tracking and field assessment highlight major foraging site for green turtles in the Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania