Coonamessett Farm Foundation, a nonprofit research center based in East Falmouth, wrapped up its most successful sea turtle excursion yet, tagging record numbers of sea turtles within the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight.

Samir Patel, a sea turtle biologist and the lead scientist on the project, reported that in a typical trip the team tags about 20 turtles. This time they set records both for the trip (35 turtles tagged) and turtles tagged in one day (14).

Each turtle was tagged and biological samples were collected to assess the ecology and health of the turtles. Coonamessett Farm Foundation also deploys a submersible remotely operated vehicle to follow the turtles in their natural habitat and capture more detail of their in-water behavior. The tags collect temperature, depth and dive duration data, which is being used to improve understanding of their overlap and potential interactions with the sea scallop fishery.

The trip marked the 10-year anniversary of Coonamesset Farm Foundation’s project tagging loggerhead sea turtles in conjunction with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

The study is funded by the scallop industry through its research set-aside program and the federal Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species.

This trip was conducted on the scallop vessel FV Kathy Ann, based in Barnegat Light, New Jersey, and operated by Viking Village Inc.

The sea turtle trip wrapped up in May, and Coonamessett Farm Foundation will send three other projects to sea in June: an ongoing seasonal bycatch survey that collects biological data on scallops, flounder, and other important commercial species on Georges Bank; a new project testing how gillnet mesh size impacts selectivity in the haddock fishery; and another new project using a cutting-edge baited video system designed by foundation scientists to assess two tilefish fisheries.

Coonamessett Farm Foundation is dedicated to conducting scientific research and educational projects that support sustainable fisheries, aquaculture, and agricultural industries.

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