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Accidental sea turtle deaths drop 90 percent in US fisheries
Date:9/14/2011

DURHAM, N.C. -- The number of sea turtles accidentally caught and killed in fishing gear in United States coastal waters has declined by an estimated 90 percent since 1990, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University Project GloBAL and Conservation International.

The report, published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, credits the dramatic drop to measures that have been put into place over the last 20 years to reduce bycatch in many fisheries, as well as to overall declines in U.S. fishing activity.

The study's authors estimate that 4,600 sea turtles die each year in U.S. coastal waters.

Before measures to reduce bycatch were put in place, total sea turtle takes surpassed 300,000 annually. Of these, 70,000 turtles were killed.

The study used data collected from 1990 to 2007 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to determine bycatch rates across more than 20 fisheries operating in Atlantic waters from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, and in the Pacific Ocean, along the West coast and around Hawaii.

It found that overall turtle bycatch rates, including both fatal and nonfatal run-ins, have fallen about 60 percent since 1990.

Shrimp trawls in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern U.S. accounted for up to 98 percent of all by-catch takes and deaths during the study period.

All six marine turtle species that occur in U.S. waters are categorized as threatened or endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species List. They are loggerheads, leatherbacks, hawksbills, olive ridleys, Kemp's ridleys and green sea turtles.

Bycatch is an acute threat to sea turtle populations worldwide. High bycatch rates can be indicative of unsustainable fishing practices that negatively impact the health of marine ecosystems.

"The reduction of bycatch and mortality shows important progress by NMFS, which serves as a model for reducing sea turtle bycatch in ot
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Contact: Tim Lucas
tdlucas@duke.edu
919-613-8084
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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