(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
By James A. Foley
A loggerhead turtle captured and tagged off the Mexican coast in 2005 has been spotted again, albeit a long way from the warm waters of the Baja Peninsula. The turtle was found earlier this month in Japan.
The loggerhead was found on the shores of Yakushima Island in Japan's far south, according to the Kyodo News agency.
The a visitor to the island spotted a metal tag on the loggerhead bearing the letters "NOAA" -- the acronym for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A museum on Yakushima confirmed that the tagged loggerhead is the first known occurrence of an individual loggerhead crossing the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Japan, Kyodo News reported.
However, as a destination, Yakushima is apparently popular among loggerhead turtles. Yakushima's beaches are known to have the highest occurrences of shore-landing and eggs laid by loggerhead turtles in all of Japan.
According to NOAA, Pacific loggerheads migrate over 7,500 miles (12,000 km) between nesting beaches in Japan and feeding grounds off the coast of Mexico.
Officials on Yakushima contacted NOAA to learn that the turtle has been captured off the coast of the Baja California Sur state in western Mexico in September 2005.
Kyodo reported that the turtle did not lay any eggs on Yakushima because of an apparent injury on its flippers.
Takashi Ishihara, a senior researcher at the nonprofit Sea Turtle Association of Japan, told Kyodo that loggerhead born in Japan travel to waters near Mexico on the Kuroshio current before returning to breed in the same area they were born. It has been unclear how long the process takes, but the discovery of the tagged turtle "showed for the first time that sea turtles are sexually mature in about 6 to 7 years," Ishihara said. "This is valuable data for analyzing the ecology of sea turtles."