NYK has sponsored the Kishu Minabe Sea Turtle Research Project conducted by the NPO Earthwatch Japan for a sixth consecutive year. Minabecho in Wakayama prefecture is where most loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on the main island of Japan.
This research project started in 2016 with the aim of studying the sea turtle’s behavior patterns and keeping the turtles free of danger, and over the past six years comprehensive surveys have been conducted and valuable data collected by the participants.
This year, the volunteer program was cancelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the research continued, mainly led by the project’s chief researcher, Yoshimasa Matsuzawa, chairman of the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, by attaching Argos GPS beacons to two loggerhead turtles and tracking their migration routes during spawning.
The two loggerhead sea turtles have been named “Umi-chan No. 3” and “Hana-chan No. 3,” and their locations are provided on the in-house portal site along with comments by Professor Matsuzawa. The site helps NYK Group employees deepen their interest in the marine environment.
Unlike previous tracking results, the two loggerhead sea turtles did not head to the East China Sea, but instead showed new movements, staying for about 3–4 months at the southern end of the Kii Channel around the island of Ishima, home to Anan city in Tokushima prefecture, and the coast of Hofu city in Yamaguchi prefecture.
The project’s chief researcher, Yoshimasa Matsuzawa, said: “Currently, the number of loggerhead turtles laying eggs in Japan has declined significantly. At Senrihama, Minabecho, the largest egg-laying site in Honshu, the number of eggs laid has decreased from 350 confirmed 30 years ago to 63 last fiscal year and 31 this fiscal year.
“To conserve the North Pacific population of this species, threats are being identified and countermeasures are being taken not only at each spawning ground in Japan, the only breeding ground for this species, but also in Mexico and the United States, where the species migrates.
“If this program can elucidate where and what threats female loggerhead turtles are exposed to after spawning through repeated satellite tracking surveys, it is expected to make a significant contribution to the conservation of this species.”
Photo credit: NYK. Hana-Chan No. 3 returns to the sea.