Never underestimate the impact of the little guys… at least when it comes to fishing practices and North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles. Today in PLoS one, Ocean Conservancy Scientist Wallace J. Nichols and University of California (UC)-Santa Cruz researcher Hoyt Peckham report that small-scale operations are a greater threat to the survival of loggerheads than large industrial practices. This finding comes after 10 years of research and what makes it interesting is the result is not quite what we’d expect…
“For an oceanic species such as the loggerhead, these are incredibly dangerous times. It is partly the longevity of these creatures that makes their death as bystanders among the global fishing fleets feel so tragic, a truly colossal waste of life.”
So what’s going on? These amazing critters travel more than 7,000 miles from Japan to Baja California Sur. Remember that fisheries buyout in Baja? Same place and same turtles! Loggerheads hang out here for up to three decades before returning to Japan to breed. (Meaning if I were a loggerhead, I’d probably still be in Mexico.) In the past 10 years, the number of nesting females in Japan has declined by 50 to 80 percent.
Wondering why? Find out after the jump…
Nichols and Peckham explain that small-scale fishing operations inadvertently kill turtles as bycatch along with other non-target species like seabirds, dolphins, and sharks. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The team is actively engaged in local efforts to educate fishermen about protecting this endangered species. And plenty more is being done by the good folks with The Ocean Conservancy and beyond who are working at the local level to understand both the species and communities involved. Click here to learn about their incredible work.
Or better yet (you lucky readers), join in on a loggerhead sea turtle expedition HERE!
Special thanks to J. Nichols for the incredible photos and check out Climate for our Future for good coverage of a lecture he gave at DePauw University earlier this month.