Dredging Related Sea Turtle Studies Along the Southeastern U.S.

by Dena D. Dickerson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, United States,
David A. Nelson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, United States,
Charles E. Dickerson, Jr., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, United States,
Kevin J. Reine, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico


Recent studies have documented that five threatened or endangered species of sea turtles occur along the southeastern U.S. coast and are potentially affected by hopper dredging activities. Since the first reported incidents in 1980, a reduction in sea turtle deaths from dredging operations have resulted from modifications in dredging equipment, operational procedures, and management practices. More complete sea turtle life history information is necessary to develop long-term management plans as well as modifications in dredging technology to most effectively minimize sea turtle mortalities during dredging activities. A multifaceted sea turtle research effort has been initiated along the south Atlantic coast by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop these management strategies. The studies include both biological and engineering research approaches and include cooperative participation from the academic community and state and Federal agencies. Integrated trawling surveys and biotelemetry monitoring are being used to provide basic biological information on the life history, behavior, and spatial/temporal occurrence of sea turtles in south Atlantic ship channels maintained by hopper dredging. These data are being used to define and refine windows of time for dredging activities when turtles are absent or least abundant. Measures which are being tested which show potential for reducing turtles mortalities include: trawling to capture and relocate turtles; hydroacoustics to detect turtle presence; techniques to disperse turtles from the dredging pathway; a flexible turtle deflector attached to the draghead; and a new draghead design. Deterrent or dispersal techniques which show promise include seismic/acoustic pneumatic devices, sound, and physical disturbance.

Subject Headings: Dredging | Wildlife | Federal government | Seas and oceans | Light rail transit | History | Endangered species

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