Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A comprehensive plan for in-water sea turtle data collection in the US Gulf of Mexico

June 15, 2023

The Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group (OO TIG) released a Final Open Ocean Restoration Plan 2 in 2019, which included a project titled Developing a Gulf-wide Comprehensive Plan for In-water Sea Turtle Data Collection. This document, A Comprehensive Plan for In-water Sea Turtle Data Collection in the US Gulf of Mexico (Plan), is the culmination of that OO TIG project. This Plan serves as the OO TIG project’s technical report as well as a framework for a biologically and statistically-sound plan to support coordinated in-water sea turtle data collection in the United States (US) Gulf of Mexico (GoM) to determine sea turtle abundance and population trends.

The purpose of this Plan is to act as a guide for collecting biologically and statistically robust, in-water sea turtle data in a comprehensive, coordinated, and standardized fashion in the US GoM. Several sea turtle in-water monitoring efforts are underway in the GoM; however, additional coordination and standardization of these efforts will benefit current restoration and recovery objectives. These efforts will aid in restoration project design, assess long-term effectiveness of restoration activities, and create abundance and distribution baselines across the GoM. This Plan provides guidance for researchers investigating sea turtle abundance and demographic questions, as well as for management agencies and restoration planners.

A Steering Committee (SC) was assembled to develop this Plan and to recommend a coordinated approach to the formulation of an improved understanding of sea turtle population baselines in the GoM, from which determination of large-scale population changes, effects of specific threats (e.g., oil spills, anthropogenic hazards), and effects of changes in ocean conditions (e.g., climate change) can later be evaluated. In crafting this guidance, the SC considered species distribution and life history characteristics, spatial and logistical considerations, level of effort required to detect trends, methods available and the pros and cons of each, associated assumptions and biases with suggested monitoring methods, and standardization of data collection.

Given the current level of data available, the SC has recommended species monitoring in two main phases in neritic and oceanic waters, with additional recommended sampling for surface pelagic drift communities.

The two phases in this Plan focus on 1) monitoring a limited number of sites in the first 5 to 8 years, followed by 2) a refined monitoring design. To support implementation of this Plan, the SC also considered broader programmatic needs, including supplemental data collection, program and data management, potential international partnerships, program expansion, and applications including future technology.

Publication Year 2023
Title A comprehensive plan for in-water sea turtle data collection in the US Gulf of Mexico
Authors Kristen Hart, Pamela T. Plotkin, Christopher Sasso, Blair E. Witherington
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Index ID 70245385
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center