TIDE's first Ridge to Reef expedition group had the incredible experience of tagging a critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle on 23rd August 2014! She was named TIDE of HOPE in honour of the Hawksbill Hope project with Marymount University who supplied the tag. She is already providing important migration data for sea turtles that nest in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. This will enable us to highlight the importance of the coastal beaches and foraging areas for endangered sea turtles in and around PHMR, and determine connectivity with other areas in the region. After her tagging, TIDE of HOPE stayed within and around Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) for 2 weeks before moving across the Bay of Honduras past Guatemala and along the Honduran coastline south west of the island of Utila. Comparison with regional coral layers from the Healthy Reefs Initiative geoportal have revealed that TIDE of HOPE relies upon a small reef bank near the coast at Cuero y Salado National Park in Honduras, and TIDE is now working with Prolansate in Honduras to investigate this little known unprotected reef further.
The tagging itself took 3 hours and finished at 5 am. We wish to thank to Dr. Todd Rimkus, Marymount University and the Hawksbill Hope project for leading this important project and providing the tag and for Ecomar to facilitate the effort in Belize! Several of the turtles that nest at Gales Point forage in Port Honduras so we know there already exists this connectivity. TIDE of HOPE now has demonstrated regional connectivity between PHMR and Punta Sal National Park in Honduras managed by one of TIDE’s partnering organisations Prolansate. This highlights the need for holistic regional scale management of marine environments. We are all excited to follow TIDE of HOPE's progress over the coming months and look forward to being present as her hatchlings appear.
TIDE also has an ongoing sea turtle monitoring project whereby community researchers conduct monthly beach profiling to monitor the status of turtle nesting habitat. Based on rates of beach erosion, we know which areas to monitor more closely to protect turtles. For example, include Punta Ycacos, Punta Negra, Brion Point, South and West Snake Caye are all favored nesting sites for endangered marine turtles. On three occasions we collected hatchlings as they appeared and released them en masse in their original locations at night to minimise predation and maximise survivorship.
Follow TIDE of HOPE's progress by visiting http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/index.shtml?tag_id=117995&full=1&lang=