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Why leatherback turtles linger in South Pacific Gyre, and why it matters
Date:2/8/2011

he high seas is longline fishing, a widely used approach for capturing commercially valuable species such as tuna and swordfish. The turtles also face fishing pressure from gill nets and longlines as they swim through coastal waters on their way out to the open ocean.

The problem, Shillinger said, is that areas that attract commercially desirable species also tend to be attractive to leatherbacks and other non-targeted species, known as by-catch.

"We are really going to have to link our research on turtles with a better understanding of where and how fishing is being done, things like how many hooks and nets are in the water and for how long," he said. "We also need to know more about the by-catch which non-targeted species are being caught and in what numbers."

Having all that data would help Shillinger and his colleagues pinpoint the areas where fishing activity is most likely to coincide with turtle activity and determine what mitigation measures would be most effective.

Temporary closure of certain areas breeding zones, migration routes and rich foraging habitats when turtles are most likely to be concentrated there is one possible measure.

"We are not talking about closing the whole ocean. When the turtles have moved through, they can go back to fishing, in a lot of cases," Shillinger said.

Modification of fishing techniques, such as deploying hooks at the depths that are least likely to be occupied by turtles, could also help.

Shillinger emphasized that the timing of the turtles' presence, or the exact locations they inhabit, may well vary somewhat from year to year as ocean conditions vary, so mitigation measures will have to adapt to changing conditions.

"No one is out to kill turtles," Shillinger said. "We are looking for solutions that are less adversarial with fishermen and more productive for turtle conservation."

The information collected from turtles in the Sout
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Contact: Louis Bergeron
louisb3@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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