Sea Turtle Sighting Program

In partnership with Seaturtle.org, during the summer of 2001, REEF initiated a sea turtle sightings program to be included as part of its existing Fish Survey Project.  

What do I do if I see a turtle during a REEF dive?

Download the Sea Turtle ID cardDownload the Sea Turtle ID card

As part of this program, REEF surveyors are asked to include sea turtle sightings as an additional species. If the turtle can be identified to species, its common name and/or scientific name should be given, otherwise the surveyor should just mark 'Sea Turtle sp.'  The same abundance codes should be used (S,F,M,A) and this program is applicable in all regions.  In Hawaii and the Caribbean, additional information on green sea turtles withFibropapillomatosis (FP) tumors is also being recorded.  Click here to find out more about FP. 

Why sea turtles?

As the reach of REEF's survey effort continues to expand, there have been many ideas and thoughts of how to capitalize on the thousands of eyes looking underwater.  While REEF's main focus is marine fish, we have decided to incorporate two additional components through collaborations with other organizations - the Invertebrate monitoring program and sea turtles.  There are three rationales for including sea turtle sightings in the REEF Fish Survey Project-

  1. It is well known that sea turtles are facing increasing threats and their populations have continued to decline.  Unfortunately, as with all aspects of the marine environment, scientists and resource managers simply do not have the means to adequately monitor the status and distribution of sea turtles.  Sea turtle sighting data that are provided by the Roving Diver Technique will be useful and valid.
  2. The search image for turtles is compatible with that of fish, and most if not all divers who see a turtle while diving make a note of it on their slate and in their dive log.Seaturtle.org  will manage and disseminate the information to the sea turtle research community. 
  3. Seaturtle.org  will manage and disseminate the information to the sea turtle research community. 

What will happen to the sea turtle data?

The data are housed in REEF's database. Visitors to the REEF online database can view summary reports similar to those for fish. REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, provides raw data of sightings upon request. Dr. Michael Coyne via Seaturtle.org ocassionally provides the data to the sea turtle research and conservation communities. 

Who is Seaturtle.org?

Seaturtle.org is a non-profit organization based in North Carolina, and its mission is to support research and conservation efforts in the sea turtle community by providing online resources and solutions.  Seaturtle.org's founder and Executive Director, Dr. Michael Coyne, supported REEF for years as our Database Programmer.  For more information, visit their website at Seaturtle.org.

How can I learn more about sea turtles?

Seaturtle.org has created an identification card that is available for download here.  You can also visit www.seaturtle.org.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub