Sea turtles are known to move extensively between nesting and foraging grounds, but in most cases, for example in Malaysia it is not known which reproductive populations occupy a particular feeding habitat. Studies have proven that nesting sea turtles in Malaysia does conduct long distance migrations (Liew et al., 1995; Liew et al., 2000). For example, after nesting season the green turtles from Redang Island, Terengganu will migrate to Sabah, Indonesia and the Philippines waters. Sadly, up to now only few foraging grounds were identified making it difficult for the Marine Police to safe guard these areas. Since the harvesting of sea turtles in foraging ground is becoming serious, there is an urgent need to identify location of feeding grounds throughout Malaysian waters, as well as to identify sea turtle stocks occupying each feeding area. An effective conservation strategy will depend on understanding the migratory pathways and the source (nesting colony) for foraging populations.
Currently, nothing is known of the stock occupying at feeding grounds around Malaysian waters. We are not sure whether those harvested sea turtles at feeding grounds belongs to our nesting turtles or belongs to the neighbouring countries? In the absence of direct observations of migratory pathways, molecular genetic markers have proven useful for resolving migration patterns in sea turtles (Bowen & Karl, 1996). In this study, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences will be used as a tool to determine and to identify sea turtles at foraging grounds. Genetic isolation among nesting colonies, and corresponding mtDNA haplotype frequencies differences, provide opportunity to identify the origins of juveniles and adults at foraging grounds.
This research was funded by the Fundamental Research Grants Scheme (FRGS) of the Ministry of Higher Education. For permit, sample collection and field assistance, we would like to thanks the following agencies:Sabah Parks Department of Fisheries Malaysia, Department of Fisheries Sabah, Department of Marine Parks Malaysia, Sarawak Forestry Department, Universiti Malaysia Sabah Laguna Redang Island Resort Berjaya Redang Island Resort