Millions of sea turtles are killed as ‘collateral damage’ in the race for fish07/04/2010 10:56:42 First ever global study of the impacts of bycatch on turtles shows a worldwide crisis unfolding because of poor management of global fisheries.
April 2010. Millions of sea turtles have become the unintended victims of a failure to properly manage the worlds' fisheries, with more and more of their habitats clogged with hooks and nets, an important new report has revealed.
Gillnets, longlines, and trawls
The report clearly shows the links between increased fishing gear in regions and the increase in accidental capture of sea turtles.
Bycatch occurs when fisheries use indiscriminate gear such as longlines with thousands of baited hooks, or nets that inadvertently snag animals other than what they are intended to catch. Sea turtles, along with sharks, dolphins, and albatrosses, are among the most frequently accidentally captured. Air-breathing reptiles, sea turtles often perish as a result of drowning in nets or swallowing sharp J-shaped hooks which can become lodged in the soft tissue of turtles' throats and stomachs, causing severe and often grave injuries.
Global Patterns of Marine Turtle Bycatch
Dr. Wallace, the Science Advisor for CI's Sea Turtle Flagship Program said: "Because the reports we reviewed typically covered less than one percent of all fleets, with little or no information from small-scale fisheries around the world, we conservatively estimate that the true total is probably not in tens of thousands, but in the millions of turtles taken as bycatch in the past two decades."
Six out of seven marine turtles are Endangered
Bycatch is by far the major threat to marine turtles
Worst zones for sea turtles
In the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 20 countries fish in the same ocean basin for species like bluefin tuna and swordfish, a lack of integrated management has led to some of the highest concentrations of longline fishing and trawling around the globe, and consequently, some of the highest sea turtle bycatch rates in the world.
US Atlantic Coast
To lower sea turtle bycatch rates, and improve overall ocean health, Conservation International's Global Marine Division has recommended several strategies:
"We have only begun to scratch the surface about the realities of sea turtle bycatch," said study researcher Dr. Wallace. "Our review revealed important data gaps in areas where small-scale fisheries operate, especially Africa, the eastern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. These regions and fisheries are urgent priorities for enhanced monitoring and reporting effort so that we can fill in some blanks about turtle bycatch."
"Sea turtles are sentinel species of how oceans are functioning. The impacts that human activities have on them give us an idea as to how those same activities are affecting the oceans on which billions of people around the world depend for their own well-being." said Dr. Wallace. "Our hope is that this study gives governments and fisheries alike another impetus for bolstering on-going efforts to reduce sea turtle bycatch and to promote more sustainable fishing practices as soon as possible."
The report appears in the journal Conservation Letters was conducted by Conservation International (CI) in partnership with Duke University's Project GloBAL (Global By-catch Assessment of Long-lived Species).