Koch, V, WJ Nichols, H Peckham, V de la Toba. 2006. Estimates of sea turtle mortality from poaching and bycatch in Bahía Magdalena, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Biological Conservation 128(3): 327–334.
Bahia Magdalena on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico, is an important feeding and nursery ground for black turtles Chelonia mydas, loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta, olive ridley turtles Lepidochelys olivacea, and hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata. Despite international and national protection, sea turtles continue to be caught incidentally and hunted for consumption in large numbers. This study examines the mortality of sea turtles in Bahia Magdalena, focusing on (1) species distribution and number of carcasses found, (2) causes of death, (3) size frequency distribution and % juveniles in the catch, and (4) changes in average size over the past years. A total of 1945 turtle carcasses were found from April 2000 to July 2003 along beaches and in towns of the region with loggerhead (44.1%) and black turtles (36.9%) being the dominant species. Slaughter for human consumption was the primary cause of death of carcasses found in towns (95–100%), while carcasses on beaches mostly died of unknown causes (76–100%). Circumstantial evidence suggests however, that incidental bycatch was the main mortality cause on beaches. Black turtles suffered the highest consumption mortality overall (91%), followed by olive ridley (84%), hawksbill (83%) and loggerhead turtles (63%). Over 90% of all turtles found were juveniles or subadults. Carapace length of black turtles declined consistently over the sampling period, while that of loggerhead turtles increased. Our results strongly suggest that turtles are being taken at high and unsustainable rates; this may partially explain why the populations have not recovered despite widespread protection on nesting beaches.
Keywords: Sea turtle fisheries; Consumption/bycatch mortality; Northwest Mexico; Poaching