Science Centric: Loggerhead sea turtles threatened by small-scale fishing operations
Posted on Oct 17th, 2007
Ocean Conservancy Scientist, Wallace J. Nichols and University of California-Santa Cruz researcher Hoyt Peckham found surprising results in a recent peer-reviewed loggerhead sea turtle study that Nichols and Peckham conducted over the course of 10 years. The full study will be published on 17 October in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.
The study reveals that small-scale fishing operations are a greater threat to the survival of north Pacific loggerhead sea turtles than large industrial fishing operations. The species is seriously threatened. As The New York Times recently editorialised, '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.' North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles travel more than 7,000 miles from Japan via Hawaii to feed and grow to maturity in Baja California Sur, Mexico, spending up to 30 years there before returning to Japan to breed. The number of nesting females in Japan has declined by 50 to 80 percent over the past 10 years. Young loggerheads spend 70 percent of their time in areas that are popular small-scale fishing locations. Small-scale fishing operations threaten the survival of these turtles because the turtles are inadvertently caught in gillnets set on the ocean bottom and long fishing lines with many hooks that can easily ensnare loggerhead sea turtles.