Thousands of turtles netted off South America


Share post:

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

Thousands of turtles netted off South America
Thousands of sea turtles are accidentally caught off South America’s Pacific coast each year
[Credit: ProDelphinus]

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.”

Thousands of turtles netted off South America
Fishers often try to return turtles to the sea, but thousands of turtles die each year
[Credit: ProDelphinus]

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.”

Thousands of turtles netted off South America
Table showing bycatch statistics [Credit: University of Exeter]

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.

The study is published in the journal Fisheries Research.

Source: University of Exeter [June 05, 2018]



Related articles

Elephants and ivory – protecting the world’s largest land mammal

In the run-up to the forthcoming illegal wildlife trade conference in London, Fauna & Flora international (FFI) has...

Permafrost thawing below shallow Arctic lakes

New research shows permafrost below shallow Arctic lakes is thawing as a result of changing winter climate. Warmer...

Sampling the deep graveyard of Earth’s earliest crust

In an international collaboration, Earth scientists at the University of Cologne and Freie Universitat Berlin discovered that some...

Study shows rapid warming on west Antarctic ice sheet

In a discovery that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a...

Geoscientists discover 500,000 years of climate history in central Mexico

The effects of climate change on tropical regions are still poorly understood. However, tropical regions are among the...

Ten years to save world’s most threatened sea turtle population

The Eastern Pacific leatherback turtle will be lost forever if insufficient conservation action is taken over the next...

Snowy owl numbers far lower than once thought

Scott Judd trained his camera lens on the white dot in the distance. As he moved up the...

Prehistoric climate shift linked to cosmic impact

For the first time, a dramatic climate shift that has long fascinated scientists has been linked to the...