LUTH 2008


Leatherback Turtle Eating Jellyfish by S Hansen

The Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitat (LUTH) survey is an ecosystem assessment of temperate foraging habitats of endangered leatherback turtles off the coast of central California. This is a collaborative ‘process-oriented’ ecosystem investigation sponsored by NOAA - Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) involving oceanographic and prey sampling aboard the David Starr Jordan, satellite oceanography, aerial surveys of leatherback turtles using NOAA and contract aircrafts, and telemetry of leatherback turtles within the study area. The study area includes a major portion of the leatherback time-area fisheries management closure off the US west coast, out to a maximum distance of approximately 200 nautical miles. In situ oceanographic sampling will occur at the central California CalCOFI stations, between approximately Pt. Conception and Pt. Reyes, where leatherback turtles occur during summer and fall. Additional sampling may occur north or south of this target area if leatherbacks and suitable habitat are identified elsewhere.
Telemetry studies of leatherback turtles have suggested leatherback turtles associate with dynamic oceanographic features (e.g., fronts) within the proposed critical habitat. The project will focus on characterizing these oceanographic features. Because the spatial and temporal scales of frontal habitat are affected by physical forcing, the precise location of the sampling effort by the vessel will be determined in near real-time with inputs from Ecosystem Studies Program and Environmental Research Division collaborators. Remotely sensed and in-situ oceanographic data will be used to identify frontal features and physical mechanisms (i.e., surface currents) that might aggregate jellyfish (the main prey item of leatherback turtles), and these are the precise areas where the vessel will conduct oceanographic sampling.  David Starr Jordan


The immediate objectives of this study are: (1) to conduct an ecosystem assessment in offshore waters of central California, including traditional swordfish fishing grounds, (2) to identify leatherback foraging areas via shipboard oceanographic and prey sampling, aerial surveys, and satellite telemetry, and 3) to determine how areas used by leatherbacks may overlap with swordfish habitat, through collaborative swordfish research with the SWFSC Fisheries Resource Division.  NOAA Aerial Survey Airplane

Chief Scientist: Scott Benson

Survey Coordinator: Annette Henry


Last modified: 12/24/2014