Thousands of turtles netted off South America

June 05, 2018

Tens of thousands of sea turtles are caught each year by small-scale fishers off South America's Pacific coast, new research shows.

Surveys at 43 harbours in Ecuador, Peru and Chile reveal that gillnet fisheries catch more than 46,000 sea turtles per year, with more than 16,000 killed in the process.

And the true numbers are likely to be higher, as not all ports in each country were surveyed.

Such accidental catching - known as bycatch - is a major threat to species including sea turtles, and the researchers say their findings highlight Ecuador and Peru as key places to tackle this.

"People worry about industrial fisheries but a real concern that people are waking up to is small-scale fisheries," said Professor Brendan Godley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"These are small vessels but they exist in such huge numbers that they can have a massive impact on ecosystems."

Turtles living in the study area include leatherbacks (critically endangered in the east Pacific) and hawksbills (critically endangered worldwide).

Dr Joanna Alfaro, who obtained her PhD at Exeter and is now director of ProDelphinus, a conservation organisation in Peru, said: "This work highlights the importance and the benefits of our approach of engaging with fishers.

"We are actively working with fishers in this region to develop and implement solutions to bycatch - not just to improve the situation for turtles but for the health of fisheries and fish stocks.

"Our goal is to develop fisheries that are sustainable for small-scale fishing communities and the species with which they interact."

Dr Jeffrey Mangel, also of the University of Exeter and ProDelphinus, added: "Gathering this survey data was a massive effort across three countries, and the results give us fascinating and important insights.

"We are careful not to overstate threats to wildlife, but in this case it's clear that tens of thousands of turtles are being caught each year."

The southeastern Pacific sustains extensive fisheries that are important sources of food and employment for millions of people.
-end-
The study, supported by the UK government's Darwin Initiative, was designed to fill data gaps and identify priority areas for future conservation work.

The paper, published in the journal Fisheries Research, is entitled: "Untangling the impacts of nets in the southeastern Pacific: Rapid assessment of marine turtle bycatch to set conservation priorities in small-scale fisheries."

University of Exeter

Related Fisheries Articles from Brightsurf:

Assessing El Niño's impact on fisheries and aquaculture around the world
New report presents the main regional consequences caused by the five types of the climate pattern.

Dissolved oxygen and pH policy leave fisheries at risk
In a Policy Forum, ''Dissolved oxygen and pH criteria leave fisheries at risk'' published in the April 24 issue of the journal Science, Stony Brook University's Dr.

Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows
Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance.

Meeting the challenges facing fisheries climate risk insurance
Insurance schemes with the potential to improve the resilience of global fisheries face a host of future challenges, researchers say.

Healthy mangroves help coral reef fisheries under climate stress
Healthy mangroves can help fight the consequences of climate change on coral reef fisheries, according to a University of Queensland-led study.

Study champions inland fisheries as rural nutrition hero
Researchers from MSU and the FAO synthesize new data and assessment methods to show how freshwater fish feed poor rural populations in many areas of the world.

For global fisheries, it's a small world after all
Even though many nations manage their fish stocks as if they were local resources, marine fisheries and fish populations are a single, highly interconnected and globally shared resource, a new study emphasizes.

New study maps how ocean currents connect the world's fisheries
It's a small world after all -- especially when it comes to marine fisheries, with a new study revealing they form a single network, with over $10 billion worth of fish each year being caught in a country other than the one in which it spawned.

Federal subsidies for US commercial fisheries should be rejected
A pending rule change proposed by the US National Marine Fisheries Service would allow the use of public funds to underwrite low-interest loans for the construction of new commercial fishing vessels.

Sustainable fisheries and conservation policy
There are roughly five times as many recreational fishers as commercial fishers throughout the world.

Read More: Fisheries News and Fisheries Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.