A group of researchers, managers, and tribal leaders with extensive local knowledge from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua, Indonesia, provided new information on the status of leatherback nesting populations in the western Pacific Ocean. Twenty-eight nesting sites were identified, of which 21 were previously unknown or poorly described. Although data are still incomplete, we estimate a total of ca. 5000–9200 nests currently laid each year among these 28 sites, with approximately 75% of this nesting activity concentrated at 4 sites along the northwest coast (Bird's Head Peninsula) of Papua, Indonesia. Genetic analysis by using mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid sequences identified a total of 6 haplotypes among the 106 samples analyzed for Solomon Islands, Papua, and Papua New Guinea, including a unique common haplotype that is only found in these western Pacific populations. There was no significant difference in haplotype frequencies among these rookeries, which suggests that they represent a metapopulation composed of a single genetic stock. Further work is needed to define the demographic structure within this metapopulation.
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Vol. 6 • No. 1