The Beacon

New Study: Millions of Sea Turtles Caught Globally

© Oceana/Cory Wilson

The first ever global assessment of sea turtle bycatch came out this week in the journal Conservation Letters -- and it’s not pretty.

The study found that 85,000 sea turtles were reported caught by commercial fisheries worldwide over the last 20 years, but the scientists estimate that the actual number is two orders of magnitude higher than that -- in the millions.

The 85,000 figure only accounts for sea turtle bycatch that was reported, but the actual number of turtles caught is significantly higher because typically less than 1% of fleets have fishing observed and many small scale fisheries have no observer coverage at all.

The study looked at sea turtles caught by gillnets, longlines and trawls, three of the most commonly used fishing gear types. The bottom line here is that the number of sea turtles caught as bycatch is enormous. Without additional bycatch reduction and better enforcement of established protections, many sea turtle populations may go extinct.

We need U.S. leadership on domestic and international sea turtle conservation. The U.S. should start by requiring Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in all trawls operating where sea turtles are present and pushing for the use of large circle hooks in high seas longline fisheries.

You can help by telling President Obama to protect sea turtles swimming in U.S. waters.

Elizabeth Griffin is a marine scientist and fisheries campaign manager at Oceana.


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