Critter cams aim to help our understanding of green turtle

By Simon Jones,

Bermuda Sun  

Small video cameras will be attached to green turtles as part of a conservation project to protect the species and its grazing habitat.

The pioneering programme will see American scientists join forces with local conservation experts to tag and monitor the feeding habits of the protected marine animal.

Close encounter: Footage from a critter cam that could help us better understand our green turtles

And it will give them a ‘turtle’s eye view’ of how the species interact in the waters off Bermuda.

American experts, Jim Fourqurean and Derek Burkholder from Florida International University will arrive on the island a week today and join a six strong team from the Department of Conservation Services.

They will be joined by a third US scientist, Jud Kenworthy, who recently retired from Nationals Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in North Carolina on August 1.

The team is planning to start the two-week project on July 30 at the Chub Head site, which is around seven miles off the West End.

The study will involve nine video cameras being tethered to the seabed, while a further three cameras will be attached to the back of green turtles that are captured.

The cameras will only be fixed to larger turtles and will pop up to the surface after less than a day in the water.

Marine Conservation Officer, Sarah Manuel, said: “For the past six years the Bermuda Benthic Habitat Mapping, Monitoring and Assessment Programme has been studying seagrass beds around Bermuda.

“At our Chub Head monitoring site we have looked specifically at the effects of grazing on the condition and health of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum.

“In order to adequately conserve both green turtles and their essential grazing habitat we need to improve our understanding of this dynamic relationship in Bermuda.”

The project will help scientists estimate turtle populations as well and monitor grazing habits.

Three turtles will also be fixed with satellite tracking devices that will last around 300 days during the programme.

Ms Manuel added: “We will be very conservative and careful with the size of the turtle that we choose to attach the cameras too.

“They will have to be over a certain size and we will always look after the animal’s best interests.

“If the green turtles at Chub Head are not large enough for the animal borne video we would like to attach the cameras to some of the larger green turtles caught as part of Bermuda Turtle

“This project is all about creating a better understanding of these creatures and helping to protect their future in Bermuda. We will use nets to capture the turtles in strict accordance with guidelines set down by the Bermuda Turtle Project.”