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Resident areas and migrations of female green turtles nesting at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

February 10, 2017

Satellite tracking in marine turtle studies can reveal much about their spatial use of breeding areas, migration zones, and foraging sites. We assessed spatial habitat-use patterns of 10 adult female green turtles (Chelonia mydas) nesting at Buck Island Reef National Monument, U.S. Virgin Islands (BIRNM) from 2011 – 2014. Turtles ranged in size from 89.0 – 115.9 cm CCL (mean + SD = 106.8 + 7.7 cm). The inter-nesting period across all turtles ranged from 31 July to 4 November, and sizes of the 50% core-use areas during inter-nesting ranged from 4.2 – 19.0 km2. Inter-nesting core-use areas were located up to1.4 km from shore and had bathymetry values ranging from -17.0 to -13.0 m. Seven of the ten turtles remained locally resident after the nesting season. Five turtles (50%) foraged around Buck Island, two foraged around the island of St. Croix, and the other three (30%) made longer-distance migrations to Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Venezuela. Further, five turtles had foraging centroids within protected areas. Delineating spatial areas and identifying temporal periods of nearshore habitat-use can be useful for natural resource managers with responsibility for overseeing vulnerable habitats and protected marine turtle populations.