Ifremer Sea Turtle Tags

IFREMER is “a French institute that undertakes research and expert assessments to advance knowledge on the oceans and their resources, monitor the marine environment and foster the sustainable development of maritime activities.”

Jerome Bourjea and Sylvain Bonhomeau, Research Biologists, and Pierre Gogendeau, Electonics Engineer, from Ifremer are here in Martinique testing technology on sea turtle tags.

Since the 1990s, the development of tags that record position has enabled scientists to better determine feeding and reproduction areas for marine species. Understanding these areas and habits is critical for conservation and management efforts. All sea turtle species are on the list of endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and for this reason specifically, a better understanding of their habitats and behaviors is critical. The current options for sea turtle tags are very expensive (around $4,000 per unit) and this means that the number of turtles that can be tracked is limited, which equals limited information and data.

Ifremer is on this mission in Martinique to test the LoRa technology, which is a wireless radio frequency technology, a long range, low power wireless platform that is used for ‘Internet of Things’ applications. Using tags with this technology equals about 1/8th of the cost of the current tags, which use very expensive and less detailed satellite technology.  In testing the new LoRa technology, the Ifremer team sets antennas around the bay, and works on algorithms that allow the new tags to transmit to the antennas. The biggest challenge is to develop a tag that is long lasting and will not be damaged by the water.

On this mission, the team planned to deploy tags three days after arriving in Martinique. However, due to coding errors and bad weather, the first tag was deployed on day eight. Ifremer is working with CNRS because the CNRS team has the expertise of the local area and of capturing the turtles for tagging.

While here in Martinique, Ifremer was able to deploy three tags. One of these tags failed due to a coding error on the depth sensor, and the other two tags transmitted and produced very favorable results.  Two turtles were equipped with both the current and the test tag for purposes of comparison, and one turtle was equipped with the new tag, which was attached to the 24-hour camera device that CNRS uses to gather information about the turtles. Attaching the tag to the self-releasing camera is ideal in this testing phase because it allows the researchers to retrieve the tag.

To read more from Ifremer Research Biologist Sylvain Bonhomeau on the topic of tag development and their use in the study of Green Sea Turtles, visit this document.

Photo credits: Liz Factor and Philippe Brousse