Understanding impacts of the sea scallop fishery on loggerhead sea turtles

Principal investigator: Samir Patel and Liese Siemann

Funding provided by: NOAA/NMFS Atlantic Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Program

This project examines the distribution and behavior of loggerhead sea turtles in order to better understand sea turtle interactions with the scallop fishery, and to reduce sea turtle bycatch. Our study entails data collection and analysis of sea turtle distributions and behaviors to identify spatial and temporal “hot spots” on the fishing grounds, as well as turtle behaviors that impact bycatch rates. This project employs various techniques including morphometric measurements, blood and tissue sampling, satellite telemetry, and in-water videography. Results will provide valuable information for fishers and regulators to better understand how the ecology and biology of loggerhead turtles overlap with the Atlantic sea scallop fishery.

Sea Turtle out of the net  Kathy Ann 5.2

Permit #: ESA#18526

Development and testing of an inexpensive GPS radio buoy system for early notification of whale entanglements
Principal investigators: Liese Siemann,  Samir Patel, and Farrell Davis 
Funding provided by: Marine Mammal Commission and CFF

Protected species of whales continue to be caught regularly in the vertical buoy lines of bottom-set pots and gill nets of commercial fishers. Current regulations to mitigate these entanglements, primarily through the use of weak links, have had limited success, and entanglements are increasing worldwide. Fishing gear modifications may eventually reduce entanglements to low levels, but more immediate solutions are needed to protect critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale.

In response, CFF is developing and testing an inexpensive, GPS radio buoy system that provides early notification of marine mammal entanglements in the vertical buoy lines of commercial fishing gear.


Using inexpensive parts and open source technology, CFF's "bsBuoy" system provides fishers with a readily available, rapid notification system to identify entanglement events. The technology has the potential to reduce to response times of rescue crews and thus improve the  frequency and outcomes of disentanglement efforts. Additional uses for this technology are currently being explored.

Improving the understanding of sea turtle entanglement in vertical lines
Principal investigator: Samir Patel and Liese Siemann
Funding provided by:    NOAA/NMFS Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program


CFF is investigating sea turtle entanglement in vertical lines from fishing gear within the near shore waters adjacent to Cape Cod including Buzzards Bay, Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Cape Cod Bay. These areas have a known seasonal high density of leatherback, loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley turtles overlapping with high densities of vertical lines associated with fixed gear fisheries. CFF's ongoing sea turtle research includes

1) conducting flights over regions of known high densities of buoys and sea turtles to assist in boat-based tagging and tracking methods;

2) using videography to monitor sea turtle at-sea behavior within Cape Cod nearshore waters;

3) using videography to monitor vertical lines attached to fishing gear to document potential sea turtle interactions and the movements of the line caused by ocean conditions; and

4) anonymously surveying fishermen to collect information on turtle-gear interactions and potential solutions.


Permit #: ESA#18526


MET foraging ecology and feeding habitats of sea turtles in Cape Cod Bay through stable isotope analysis.

Principal investigator: Samir Patel

Funding provided by: Massachusetts Environmental Trust

CFF has partnered with the Marine Biological Laboratory, NOAA/NMFS, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and Mass Audubon Society in using naturally occurring chemical tracers to improve our understanding of sea turtle ecology in Cape Cod Bay. We are using stable isotope signatures from tissue samples to examine trophic status and nearshore foraging behavior.

Turtle isotope analysis.png

Permit #: ESA#18526

Using climate change scenarios to project loggerhead turtle distributions in the US Mid-Atlantic

Principal investigator: Samir Patel

Funding provided by: NOAA/NMFS Saltonstall-Kennedy Program

The temperate waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) provide critical summer foraging habitat for a large cohort of juvenile and adult loggerhead turtles. Currently, their summer distribution in the MAB is concentrated in the shelf waters from Maryland to New Jersey. However, sea surface temperatures on the northeast US continental shelf are warming faster than in other regions, and will likely result in a northward distributional shift as well as changes in the timing of migration into and out of the MAB. Northward shifts or the prolonged seasonal presence of loggerheads may result in increased bycatch of loggerheads in the MAB, which may substantially impact commercial fishing in the region. This project characterizes sea surface temperature conditions favored by loggerheads in the MAB using a large, long-term satellite tagging dataset. A thermal habitat model is used to project how loggerhead distributions in the MAB may shift in response to climate change over long-term (i.e., 80-100 year) time scales to show impacts over the lifetime of an individual turtle (Crouse et al. 1987[A1] [MN2] ). We are also investigating distribution shifts under an alternative climate change scenario based on NOAA’s high-resolution global climate model (CM2.6) as described by Saba et al. (2016).



Permit #: ESA#18526