. Earth Science News .

US fisheries kill 4,600 sea turtles per year: study
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 14, 2011

Improved fishing nets have saved tens of thousands of endangered sea turtles in recent years, but 4,600 are still dying annually, mainly in Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawls, said a US study on Wednesday.

Turtle-excluder devices (TEDs), or large holes that allow the creatures to escape from nets that nab smaller marine creatures, have helped cut back on sea turtle deaths up to 94 percent since the 1990s, said the report in the journal Biological Conservation.

The current annual death rate is a "dramatic reduction" from the estimated peak of about 71,000 before protective measures were put in place, said the Duke University-led study which examined data from the US National Marine Fisheries Service on 20 US coastal fisheries.

But major gaps remain, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern US shrimp trawl fishery area, where the study said up to 98 percent of all turtle deaths are believed to have occurred in the past two decades.

Shrimp trawlers drag nets along the bottom of the ocean that can capture and kill sea turtles, and the six varieties included in the study are all classified as either threatened or endangered species.

The new fishing nets were introduced in the late 1980s, though design improvements were made as recently as 2003 to make the holes large enough for big turtles to fit through.

TEDs are now mandated by law, but the vast size of the Gulf of Mexico fishing area, where more than 4,700 shrimping vessels work, combined with a lack of independent observers to monitor turtle deaths, or bycatch, means conservationists are unsure how many boats are doing what they should.

"The Southeast/Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Trawl fishery accounts for the overwhelming majority of sea turtle bycatch (up to 98%) in US fisheries, but estimates of bycatch in this fishery are fraught with high uncertainty due to lack of observer coverage," the study said.

Fishing and shrimping is multibillion dollar industry and a major source of income for people in coastal regions of Florida, Louisiana and Texas, an area left reeling from the BP oil spill in 2010.

Study co-author Bryan Wallace said that pushback from the shrimping industry, along with the local culture's tendency to resist government intervention, may play a role in the small number of trained observers who go along on fishing outings to monitor sea turtle interactions.

"Shrimp trawl operations have to have TEDs in their nets installed and operating properly but there have been questions raised as to the extent of that compliance," said Wallace, science director for the Marine Flagship Species Program at Conservation International.

He added that what little scientists do know is "pretty alarming."

"Our numbers are actually likely to be under-estimates," lead author Elena Finkbeiner, of Duke University's Marine Laboratory, said in an interview with AFP.

Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, senior manager for marine wildlife at the advocacy group Oceana, said the study showed "the US approach for dealing with the capture and killing of sea turtles in fisheries is still flawed."

Wilson said Gulf shrimpers are "violating protection measures that allow sea turtles to escape from their nets. As few as 21 percent of shrimp trawl vessels are complying with sea turtle protection measures."

The study authors urged a more comprehensive approach to sea turtle protection, one that moves away from the current practice in which individual fisheries gain government permission to kill a certain number of turtles per year.

"We need to take cumulative accounts of how these fisheries are impacting the sea turtle population and understand how many sea turtles in all can we take in all southeast fisheries in order for this population to still be a viable population," said Finkbeiner.

Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics


Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

New coral dating method hints at possible future sea-level changes
Falmouth MA (SPX) Sep 14, 2011
New evidence of sea-level oscillations during a warm period that started about 125,000 years ago raises the possibility of a similar scenario if the planet continues its more recent warming trend, says a research team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). In a paper published online in the Sept. 11 Nature Geoscience, the researchers report data from an improved method of ... read more

Tsunami protection wall for Japan atomic plant

Double jeopardy: Building codes may underestimate risks due to multiple hazards

UN atomic agency approves safety plan: diplomats

Blast at China chemical plant kills three: state media

Terahertz radiation's impact on cellular function and gene expression

Google, publishers near settlement in books case

Apple under fire over China university outlet

Market research firm ups tablet forecast

Major threats foreseen due to Europe's changing marine environments

US fisheries kill 4,600 sea turtles per year: study

New coral dating method hints at possible future sea-level changes

Sea level rise may take economic toll on California coast

Arctic Ice Nears Record Low In 2011

EU court rejects Inuit challenge of seal trade ban

Arctic ice cover hits historic low: scientists

Global warming brings crab threat to Antarctica

Tanzania finds fishery improvements outweigh fuelwood losses

Pakistan's breadbasket reels from more floods

Homeowners, taxpayers pay billions to fight invasive pests

A scientific 'go' for commercial production of vitamin-D enhanced mushrooms

26 die in Indian floods, 200,000 evacuated

Six dead in Vietnam floods, landslide: govt

Tropical Storm Maria Makes It A West Side Story

UN steps in as Pakistan floods kill 200

No US-China arms sales race in Africa: US general

CIA boosts covert operations in Somalia

Sudan parliament okays Blue Nile military action

Somali soldier kills five during food aid handout

Researchers Utilize Neuroimaging To Show How Brain Uses Objects to Recognize Scenes

Fossil discovery could be our oldest human ancestor

Motor memory: The long and short of it

Handier than Homo habilis

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement