Sea turtle ecology in relation to environmental stressors in the North Pacific region
  • Acronym: SEAturtle
  • Term: December 2018 - November 30, 2022
  • Project Science Team Co-Chairs:
    Taewon Kim (Inha University)
    George Balazs (Golden Honu Services of Oceania, Honolulu, USA)
  • Reports to/ Parent Committee: BIO

Most sea turtles are endangered species designated by IUCN. They are now receiving threats from multiple stressors induced by anthropogenic activities such as climate change, pollution and plastic garbage. Based on the PI group’s research (Jang et al. 2018) on the movement of green sea turtles bycaught in the Sea of Jeju Island of Korea, they have different movement patterns (1. Staying around Jeju Island 2, Moving toward Japan, and 3. Moving toward China) depending on individuals. It is necessary to reveal the connectivity of populations in the North Pacific regions and to identify the major environmental stressors to them to conserve the sea turtles in the North Pacific areas.

Project organization and funding

The maximum project lifetime is 4 years: from the starting date of the project in 2018 to November 30, 2022. Funding for Year 1 (FY 2018), with ending November 30, 2019, is set at CAD 75,000. This amount includes a 15~20% overhead to be retained by PICES and Inha University to coordinate the project. Total funding for four years of this project is CAD $300,000.

Project goal and key questions

The overall project goal is to research the sea turtle population found in the North Pacific regions centering on Jeju Island of Korea to enhance the understanding of their habitat use and ecology related to anthropogenic activities. The project key questions are: (a) How the sea turtles found in Jeju Island, Korea, Kyushu Island, Japan, and Hong Kong, China are connected to the other identified populations in the North Pacific areas and (b) What are the major environmental stressors to the sea turtles in the North Pacific regions.

Connection to PICES

The project is expected to interact with and support relevant activities of PICES Scientific Committees on Biological Oceanography (BIO), Human Dimension (HD), PICES Technical Committee on Monitoring (MONITOR), and PICES FUTURE (Forecasting and Understanding Trends, Uncertainty and Responses of North Pacific Ecosystems) Program (specifically, Research Theme 1 on “What determines an ecosystem’s intrinsic resilience and vulnerability to natural and anthropogenic forcing?”).

Major Initiatives
    The project is proposed to focus on the following two major initiatives:
  1. Identifying the ecological information of the sea turtle population through the use of advanced tagging technologies, DNA analysis, and stable isotope analysis (e.g., identify habitat use and movement and collect environmental factors through satellite tagging, and identify the sea turtle population through DNA analysis, identifying the tropic ecology using stable isotope analysis).
  2. Identifying the ecological threats (collect environmental information on the habitat and bycatch/stranding monitoring in Jeju Island) and conducting behavioral experiments (e.g., testing the behavioral response to marine plastic debris) using individuals in the aquarium.
Products and Publications
  • A report to be published in the PICES Scientific Report Series that presents the project, its findings and lessons learned;
  • A summary of the report to be published as a brochure, possibly in PICES member languages;
  • Several newsletter (PICES Press) articles will be contributed during the project period.
  • A workshop will be held at the PICES Annual Meeting, or at the International Sea Turtle Symposium for the project collaborators and party who are interested in the project.
Peer-reviewed Papers
Jo K et al. (2022) Possible link between derelict fishing gear and sea turtle strandings in coastal areas.
Marine Pollution Bulletin. 185.

Winter 2020, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 43-47, 50
PICES Special Project: Sea turtle ecology in relation to environmental stressors in North Pacific regions

  • Outreach/promotional Material: create brochures (both physical and online) that emphasize project purpose and research results in PICES member languages and distribute it both locally and globally.
  • Public education on sea turtle ecology and marine ecosystem towards local fishermen, all levels of students and the general public.
  • Domestic and international seminar and workshops to promote and share the research results.
  • Building capacity for coastal sea turtle monitoring by local small-scale fishermen and local NGOs.
Jang, S., Balazs, G. H., Parker, D., Kim, B.-Y., Kim, M.Y., Ka Yan NG, C., Kim, T. W. (2018) Movements of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) rescued from pound nets near Jeju Island, the Republic of Korea. Chelonian Conservation and Biology. In Press.
Project Science Team members
George Balazs
PST Co-Chair
Golden Honu Services of Oceania
992 Awaawaanoa Place, Honolulu
Hawaii, USA 96825
Michelle María Early Capistrán
Posgrado en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
Martin Haulena
Vancouver Aquarium
P.O. Box 3232
Vancouver, BC V6B 3X8
Jibin Im
Department of Ocean Sciences
Inha University
Republic of Korea
Soojin Jang
Interdisciplinary Program of EcoCreative
The Graduate School
Ewha Womans University
Republic of Korea
Byung-Yeob Kim
College of Ocean Sciences
Jeju National University, Republic of Korea
Taewon Kim
PST Co-Chair
Department of Ocean Sciences
Inha University
100 Inha-ro, Nam-gu
Incheon, Republic of Korea
Mi Yeon Kim
Ph.D. Candidate
Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science
Kyoto University and Wildlife Research Center of Kyoto University
Hiroshi Minami
Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency
Connie Ka Yan NG
Department of Biology and Chemistry and State Key Laboratory in Marine Pollution
City University of Hong Kong / Kowloon Tong
Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region
PR China
Hideaki Nishizawa
Professor, Biosphere Informatics Laboratory
Graduate School of Informatics
Kyoto University
Nobuaki Suzuki
Fisheries Agency of Japan
George Shillinger
Executive Director
99 Pacific Street, Suite 375-E
Monterey, CA, USA 93940