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Sea turtle tagging in the Mariana Islands Training and Testing (MITT) study area.
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    The U.S. Navy developed monitoring questions for the Mariana Islands Training and Testing (MITT) study area under the Mariana Islands Range Complex Monitoring Plan (MIRCMP) as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. The MITT monitoring questions outline the scope of monitoring the Navy will conduct to understand marine mammal and sea turtle distribution and, ultimately, impacts from Navy training and testing. The monitoring and analyses outlined in this annual report support the ESA Biological Opinion (BO) received for the MITT in 2015. The overall objective of the MIRCMP is to collect field data that will enable the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to better understand the distribution and habitat use of sea turtles in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) (collectively referred to as the Mariana Archipelago). Data generated via implementation of the MIRCMP will be integrated into the Navy-wide Integrated Comprehensive Monitoring Program (ICMP). Of the five species of sea turtles associated with the MITT, this annual report provides data on the habitat and movements of two species; the green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtle. Individuals of both species were tagged and satellite-tracked in the nearshore waters of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam by staff from NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program (PIFSC MTBAP). Juvenile and adult life-stages were targeted for tagging and satellite tracking, with juveniles making up the majority of turtles observed, captured and equipped with electronic tags. The other three species of sea turtle present in the North Pacific are not generally associated with neritic nearshore waters and were not observed during monitoring activities. To date, PIFSC MTBAP has spent a total of 41 field days conducting sea turtle surveys around the Mariana Archipelago. These surveys have been conducted during a total of eight field expeditions to Guam, five expeditions to Saipan and four expeditions to Tinian. During that time researchers have observed a total of 438 turtles, 139 of which were captured and 94 of which were equipped with satellite tags. The expeditions have included meetings and collaborative fieldwork with numerous local partners, including representatives from Guam Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR), CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR), USFWS, University of Guam/SeaGrant, Naval Base Guam, andthe U.S. Pacific Fleet Environmental Readiness Office.

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