Solomon Islands in the Field

There has been great uncertainty over the status of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in the western Pacific Ocean. In the eastern Pacific, aerial surveys of the entire coast of Mexico and Central America carried out annually since 1995 have identified all the nesting sites in the eastern Pacific. In addition, consistent monitoring at the major rookeries in Mexico and Costa Rica has yielded reliable estimates of annual nesting abundance and confirmed the severe decline of these eastern Pacific stocks. The catastrophic decline of the rookery at Terengganu, Malaysia, in the Indo-Pacific is also well documented. This population plummeted from over 3000 nesters per year in the late 1960s to less than 20 per year by 1993. In the last decade only 2 or 3 leatherbacks have nested each year. The only large population of leatherbacks that has been identified in the western Pacific is the rookery at Jamursba-Medi on the north Vogelkop coast (also known as Bird’s Head Peninsula) in Papua, Indonesia. While leatherbacks have been reported to nest in the Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, New Ireland, New Britain and Vanuatu, the population stock structure and sizes of these rookeries are unknown. The SWFSC has been working with international partners in Indonesia, PNG and Solomon Islands to conduct the first region-wide population assessment, and assist with local efforts to establish long-term monitoring and protection programs at key index nesting beaches.

Solomons Leatherback

In December 2006 SWFSC scientists joined local biologists from The Solomon Islands Government, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund on an expedition to the remote areas of the Solomon Islands where the local communities have become engaged in leatherback conservation on Isabel Island and the Western Province. Leatherbacks are known to have nested in seemingly large numbers on the beaches on Isabel Island, and this expedition was part of an initiative to identify nesting beaches and estimate the population size. As part of the work, we attached satellite transmitters on nesting females to determine whether the turtles nesting in the Solomon Islands also tend to swim over to neighboring islands to lay some clutches of eggs at other beaches in the region during the nesting season. We also hoped to track turtles movement and habitat use in order to identify critical marine habitat and migratory routes.

These Series of videos document the expedition...

Windows Quicktime
Part 1: Sasakolo beach, Isabel Province, Solomon Islands Dec 6, 2006
Part 1 Part 1
Part 2: Litogharia, Isabel Province, Solomon Islands Dec 10, 2006
Part 2 Part 2
Part 3: Satellite transmitter deployment on Isabel Island Dec 12, 2006
Part 3 Part 3
Part 4: Rendova Island, Western Province, Solomon Islands, Dec 16 2006
Part 4 Part 4
Last modified: 12/24/2014