Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, issued the following statement today from Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, senor manager for marine wildlife, in reaction to a new study published this month in the scientific journal Biological Conservation that finds 4,600 sea turtles are killed each year in United States (U.S.) fisheries:
“It is disgraceful that U.S. fisheries are allowed to kill 4,600 endangered and threatened sea turtles each year – and that is the best case scenario. This figure does not include sea turtles harmed by the many U.S. fisheries operating in areas where turtles are frequently found but where there are no current estimates of sea turtle interactions. This estimate also assumes that sea turtle protection measures are being followed in all U.S. fisheries. The actual number of sea turtles killed in U.S. fisheries is likely significantly higher.
The shrimp trawl fishery alone is responsible for 80 percent of sea turtle deaths in U.S. fisheries. Compliance reports from the past two years show unequivocally that this fishery is violating protection measures that allow sea turtles to escape from their nets. As few as 21 percent of shrimp trawl vessels are complying with sea turtle protection measures; mortality estimates in this study assume 100 percent compliance. Fishing gear technologies to reduce sea turtle interactions such as turtle excluder devices only save sea turtles when they are used properly.
This study also shows that the U.S. approach for dealing with the capture and killing of sea turtles in fisheries is still flawed. Instead of working to reduce sea turtle interactions on a fishery by fishery basis, the U.S. must look at the cumulative impacts of fisheries and other activities on sea turtle populations. It is time for the U.S. to start taking a holistic approach to sea turtle conservation.”
The study described above was recently published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation and was conducted by Duke University's Project GloBAL (Global By-catch Assessment of Long-lived Species) and Conservation International (CI).
This study represents the first cumulative estimates of sea turtles interactions in U.S. fisheries between 1990 and 2007, before and after implementation of fisheries-specific sea turtle interaction mitigation measures.
An annual mean of 346,500 sea turtle interactions in U.S. fisheries was estimated to result in 71,000 annual deaths prior to the establishment of interaction mitigation measures. Current sea turtle interaction estimates (since implementation of mitigation measures) are ~60 percent lower (137,800 interactions) and mortality estimates are ~94% lower (4600 deaths) than pre-regulation estimates.
For more information about the threats facing sea turtles and Oceana’s campaign to save them, please visit www.oceana.org/seaturtles.