In addition to mortality in U.S. fisheries, American loggerheads and other species of sea turtles are killed by international fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean. Many immature American loggerheads spend their early years in the Eastern Atlantic where they are captured by the thousands, especially by Spanish boats. In one study, scientists estimated that international longline fleets hook or entangle 150,000 – 200,000 loggerheads and 30,000 – 60,000 leatherbacks in the Atlantic each year, with significant mortality.
Our challenge is to ensure that fishermen develop new methodology and gear to reduce bycatch because they understand that bycatch reduction does not prevent them from making a living. By modifying gear and techniques to protect endangered sea turtles and other non-target species, fishermen can improve their efficiency and help to safeguard marine ecosystems.
This program also will integrate our dynamic ongoing international work with new efforts. Currently, for example, a member of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s staff holds a seat on the Consultative Committee of the Inter American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC). As we anticipate that the Convention will begin to address the unintentional capture of sea turtles in the not-too-distant future, the expertise of CCC staff in dealing with fisheries issues will support IAC initiatives in this arena. Promoting bycatch reduction within various Regional Fishery Management Organizations will be a cornerstone of our new work as these agreements have enormous potential to reduce sea turtle capture.
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