fisheries bycatch of marine megafauna
Global bycatch impacts on marine turtle populations
Building on previous work described below, we recently published a comprehensive global assessment of bycatch impacts of different fishing gears on marine turtle populations in the journal Ecosphere. The study highlighted the gears with the biggest impacts on marine turtle populations, particularly those already at high risk for population declines. The paper received some press attention because it named not only those regions with highest overall bycatch impacts on turtle populations, but also those regions that are data deficient and require further attention.
Global patterns of marine turtle bycatch
In 2010, my colleagues and I published a global synthesis of sea turtle bycatch entitled “Global patterns of marine turtle bycatch” in the journal Conservation Letters that received a good deal of press coverage. In the paper, we emphasized the importance of monitoring and reporting bycatch effectively, and we identified that the regions where conservation action is urgently needed to reduce sea turtle bycatch were the Mediterranean, eastern Pacific, northwest Atlantic and southwest Atlantic. For better or worse, the aspect of our study that attracted the most attention was that we estimated that the total number of sea turtles accidentally captured by fisheries is not in the tens of thousands, but the millions. No matter how we slice it, bycatch is the most serious and acute problem facing sea turtles globally, and we need to figure out how to reduce it while keeping fisheries viable to ensure healthy oceans full of sea turtles in the future.
Sea turtle bycatch deaths in US fisheries decreased 90% since 1990
We compiled the first cumulative estimates of sea turtle bycatch across all US fisheries to assess the efficacy of efforts to reduce sea turtle bycatch overall. Our study generated a great deal of media attention, mainly because of our major finding that shrimp trawls accounted for 98% of all sea turtle bycatch, but has nearly no observer coverage, and low compliance with the mandate to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in trawls. Also, we highlighted the major flaw in how sea turtle bycatch is managed in US fisheries, which is a piecemeal, fishery-by-fishery approach, rather than a comprehensive, population-based approach that could manage all fisheries toward sea turtle population recovery goals.
Also, see a blog I did about troubles in the Gulf of Mexico for turtles and fishermen alike: Trouble being a turtle…and a fisherman