Sea turtles spend the majority of their immature and adult lives in foraging grounds, yet few studies have examined their abundance and condition in these areas when compared to more accessible nesting beach habitats. Here, a 5-year dive log, photo-identification (photo-ID) and surface encounter datasets were used to investigate the abundance, individual movements and distribution of sea turtles along 40 km of coastal reefs in southern Mozambique. A generalized linear model (GLM) was constructed with turtle sightings as the response variable. Habitat type, year and day of the year, as well as underwater visibility, were significant predictors of turtle sightings. However, only 8% of the total variance was explained by the model, indicating that other variables have a significant influence on turtle movement and distribution. Photo-ID differentiated 22 individual green turtles Chelonia mydas and 42 loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta from 323 photo-ID encounters. A majority (64%) of the photos could be used to identify the individual. Although residency times of up to 1152 days were calculated for juvenile green turtles, a low overall resighting rate indicates that individual turtles either had large home ranges or were transient to the area. Surface encounter data revealed a preference for nearshore shallow waters and an increased abundance close to reef systems. Sea turtles’ preferences for shallow, nearshore habitats are likely to increase the encounter risk with opportunistic and targeted artisanal fishers who catch sea turtles.
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Williams JL, Pierce SJ, Rohner CA, Fuentes MMPB and Hamann M (2017) Spatial Distribution and Residency of Green and Loggerhead Sea Turtles Using Coastal Reef Habitats in Southern Mozambique. Front. Mar. Sci. 3:288. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00288