Small-scale fisheries could pose a more serious threat to marine life than previously thought. Research led by the University of Exeter, published today (19 July) in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, shows that tens of thousands of turtles from across the Pacific are being captured through the activities of small-scale fisheries.
Focusing on fisheries in Peru, the study suggests that thousands of sea turtles originating from nesting beaches as far away as Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Galapagos, are likely to be captured each year as bycatch while they forage in Peru's waters. 'Bycatch' is the term used to describe fish or other sea animals being caught unintentionally by fisheries and is usually associated with large-scale industrial fishing, such as trawling and longlining.
This study shows the effect of small-scale nets and longlines on marine turtle bycatch. Some are kept for consumption and while the majority are released alive, they are often injured as a result of becoming tangled in fishing gear.
Senior author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said: "We have known for a long time that, along with sharks, marine mammals and seabirds, marine turtles often become bycatch as a result large-scale fishing. It is only recently that we have begun to realise that small-scale fisheries may also have a significant impact on marine life. However, we were very surprised when our study revealed just how large an impact small-scale fisheries have on sea turtles."
The Pacific waters around Peru serve as important foraging areas for five species of marine turtle, including loggerhead, green, leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. As part of a broad international collaboration to evaluate fisheries impacts, the researchers monitored four key Peruvian fisheries to observe fishing techniques and record the number of turtles caught. The team believes these data are vital fo
|Contact: Sarah Hoyle|
University of Exeter