27 October 2017 and from 2 to 18 October 2018
MARTINIQUE 2017/18 MISSION – ATLANTIC
Major events in Martinique
The relationships between the Principality of Monaco and Martinique were strengthened in 2017 and 2018 on the occasion of two high points:
- The inauguration of the Prêcheur Albert Falco Marine Natural Reserve by H.S.H Prince Albert II on 27 October 2017,
- The mission carried out from 2 to 18 October 2018 by the teams of the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (IPHC/CNRS, University of Strasbourg), Ifremer and Monaco Explorations to study the behaviour of green turtles.
The importance of Marine Protected Areas in the world.
Today, we have enough hindsight to know that marine reserves and protected areas are the best means for regulating overfishing and protecting ecosystems. Marine protected areas help to preserve marine environments and biodiversity by reconciling man with the sea in a responsible manner.
The Martinique mission in a nutshell: the film
Inauguration of the Prêcheur territorial marine natural reserve Albert Falco.
On 27 October 2017, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco traveled north of the Isle of Flowers to inaugurate the Albert Falco Territorial Marine Reserve of Le Prêcheur and pay tribute to the memory of the master of Calypso, faithful companion of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
This visit symbolises the strong commitment of the Principality to the development of Marine Protected Areas in the world.
Objective 2030: 30%
To date, there are 16,927 Marine Protected Areas in the world. They currently cover an area of 28,189,691 km2, i.e. 8% of the total ocean surface. Less than 3% are highly protected zones where all extractive activities are prohibited. Expert scientists recommend that at least 30% of the oceans should be protected by 2030. This is the objective to be achieved for a sustainable management and effective protection of marine biodiversity.
Albert FALCO (1927-2012): Tribute to the 'Fish Man'
Famous diver and master of the Calypso, the ship of Captain J-Y Cousteau, Albert Falco was one of the initiators of the project of the Territorial Natural Reserve of Le Prêcheur which now bears his name. This lover of the sea and Martinique impressed those who had the good fortune to know him. The natives of Martinique have not forgotten his commitment for the protection and valorisation of the island’s underwater heritage.
Location (map to be updated)
Martinique, an island frequented by turtles
Five of the seven species of marine turtles are found on Martinique’s coastline. Among them, three species are very regularly observed: the Hawksbill sea turtle, the Leatherback sea turtle, and the Green sea turtle, the most common in this area. In the south-west of the island, the Anses d’Arlet are the main feeding grounds for the immature juveniles of this species. It is there that the scientists mainly studied them during the mission of October 2018.
Damien Chevallier (IPHC) discovered that the green turtles born on the coast of Guiana would ensure their growth through spending several years in the seagrass meadows of the West Indies, in particular on the site of Anses d’Arlet. Each year, samples of flesh, skin and shell micro-fragments are taken on several individuals. Their analysis helps to know more about the origins of individuals and the health status of this population. The presence of contaminants or viruses can be detected. The turtles are captured by free diving and brought back to the surface.
Collection of a sample of shell fragment on a green turtle. © O.Borde. Monaco Explorations
Taking a blood sample. © O.Borde. Monaco Explorations.
Capture of a green turtle by free diving in the Anses d'Arlet. © O.Borde. Monaco Explorations.
Photo-identification and chipping.
Like a real fingerprint, the number, position and design of the scales on the head are unique and enable an individual to be identified. By photographing the profile of a turtle’s head, we can thus keep a record of this individual and recognise it over time, in the event of a new observation or capture. This method was developed by Kelonia, the marine turtle observatory of Reunion Island. Microchips are also used and injected beneath the skin. They enable an immediate recognition in case of recapture.
Wounded but saved
Wounded turtles are subject to rescues and specific care. Here, the scientific team will do what is necessary to remove the hook from the mouth of this green turtle, before releasing it in the water. In other cases, the divers intervene to free an individual caught in a fishing net. Abandoned or lost nets, called ghost nets, cause a significant mortality. It is currently a major problem worldwide.
The NExt programme
Led and initiated by Ifremer, NExT is the subject of a close collaboration with the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (CNRS – University of Strasbourg) and Monaco Explorations. It comprises several phases:
- Exploitation of the data collected since 20 years, associated with the acquisition of new environmental data and the collection of many samples,
- Use of a new tracking tag developed by Ifremer, using an innovative low-cost communication system (LoRa) whose signals are received by antennas arranged ashore, around the study area,
- Increase in the amount of data collected such as the temperature and salinity of the surrounding water, acceleration, depth or duration of the dive,
- Sampling of populations by blood sampling and the collection of skin, scale and flesh micro-fragments.
- Assessment of the impact of human activities, including fishing, and the effects of climate change.
High Tech backpack
Rest assured! This High Tech backpack comes off after a few days and is not a hindrance to the turtle for a long time. Several specimens were equipped with biologgers, a system combining a high resolution camera and several sensors (accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, depth gauge, thermometer, hydrophone, GPS) and an Argos tag which makes it possible to locate it in the open sea, after automatic release.
In the place of a green turtle…
Raw images… The recorded images make it possible to freely study the natural behaviour of turtles and their feeding habits and to better understand their behaviour and their strategies to adapt to their environment. At the end of this recording, we can furtively see a turtle feeding and the other with pilot fish attached to it.
'The turtle grass'
In the Anses d’Arlet, young green turtles mainly feed on algae and marine plants, including Thalassia testudinum, commonly referred to as ‘turtle grass’. This herbivore diet colours the fat of green turtles. It is at the origin of their name. Since a few years, an invasive plant from the Red Sea, Halophila stipulacea, has been colonising these seagrass meadows. The turtles’ feeding behaviour in the face of this new resource is one the long-term study subjects of the CNRS.
Scientific results expected
In 10 days of sampling, 40 green turtles were tagged and tracked. 250 samples were taken and 30 hours of video were recorded. The precious data and information collected during these field operations in Martinique supplement the data from previous years. After a phase of analysis and interpretation, this information will enable the scientific teams to progress in many scientific areas.
Reconciling humanity and the sea
In order to raise awareness among the local population about the work of researchers and the conservation of marine turtles, some experiments and scientific protocols have been adapted to be carried out on land and reach a wide public. The protection of turtles is everyone’s responsibility and many initiatives are heading in this direction. The work carried out in Martinique can significantly contribute to the turtle conservation programmes through two essential and complementary approaches, namely scientific research and education.
The scientific and education partners
Actors of the Martinique mission 2017-2018
The Monaco Explorations wish to thank
H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco
The Princely Government of Monaco
Ms. Falco, Albert Falco’s widow and her family
The Martinique authorities and official representatives
The Prefect Franck Robine and his collaborators; the Sub-Prefect of Saint Pierre and La Trinité, Emmanuel Baffour, Dominique Vian,
The Vice-Amiral René-Jean Crignola, High Commander of the armed forces in the French Antilles; The Colonel François Agostini, Commander of the gendarmerie, and the Captain Marc Formentel of the aerial section of Fort-de-France,
Marcellin Nadeau, Mayor of Le Prêcheur,
Louis Boutrin, Executive Advisor,
Gabriel Jean Guy, President of the fishermen’s association of Le Prêcheur,
Marie-Renée Queuille, Municipal Councillor of Anses d’Arlet,
The Directorate of Environment, Planning and Housing; Fabien Védié and Denis Etienne,
Office National des Forêts; Francis Georges, Head of the south territorial unit and his collaborators: Maxym Sikora and Marie-France Bernard, ‘chargés de mission’, national action plan for marine tutles and iguanas of the Lesser Antilles,
The teams of scientists
Damien Chevallier, researcher at the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (CNRS/IPHC – University of Strasbourg), Department of Ecology, Physiology and Ethology, and his team: Jordan Martin (research engineer), Sidney Regis (research engineer, freediver), Nicolas Lecerf (research engineer, freediver), Flora Siegwalt (doctoral student), Lorène Jeantet (doctoral student), Cédric Frouin (freediver).
Jérôme Bourjea, fisheries and conservation biologist (Ifremer, UMR MARBEC), Sylvain Bonhommeau, researcher in marine ecology, and Pierre Gogendeau, electronics engineer (Indian Ocean’s Ifremer Delegation) and Emmanuel Thouard and his collaborators (Ifremer delegation of the French Antilles)
The field associations and Martiniquan organisations
Abdelwahab (Wahé) Benhalilou (Ti Payot’ and Plongée passion, POEMM association) and his team: Thomas Maillet, and Lucas Andreani, Céline Murgale and the personnel of the Ti Payot’,
Mathilde Brassy, Head of the ‘Sea and sustainable development’ division and Laurie Paquemar, Carbet des Sciences, industrial, technical and scientific culture centre of Martinique,
Didier Puccini, journalist†(France Antilles) and Muriel Lepori,
Alexandre Arqué (Asso-Mer and Office de l’eau Martinique), Célia Ortole and Gwénael Quenette (Asso-Mer) and Gaelle Lambert (Mon école, ma baleine),
Lyne-Rose Beuze, curator of the Père Pinchon Museum, Manager of museums of the territorial collectivity of Martinique,
The managers of the classes of educational marine areas: Sino César, Carine Croisan, Jean-Paul Joyau, Béatrice Mas-Palangie, Chantal M’Quiby, Régine Toucanon, (Le Carbet) ; Françoise Figueres, Michèle Rollin and Rolande Menil (Anse d’Arlet), Fabiola Nicolas-Bragance, Yoanna Paulin and Karla Jubenot (Fort de France) and their students, as well as the class of Christel Laurent of the School of Morne Vert.
– The persons who participated in the organisation of the Martinique missions:
Philippe Brousse, leader of the Caribbean mission of Monaco Explorations,
Corinne Bussi-Copin, scientific referent, Oceanographic Institute – Prince Albert 1st of Monaco Foundation,
The Colonel Bruno Philipponnat, special assistant to H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco
Thierry Apparu and Mrs. Liz Factor, communication.