New website on reducing marine turtle bycatch in the Eastern Pacific
In the Pacific Coast of Latin America, fisheries provide livelihood for more than one million people. With coastal fishery resources over-fished in many places, fishermen are forced to switch to oceanic longline fishing, a gear commonly used to catch highly migratory species such as tuna, swordfish, billfishes, mahi-mahi and sharks.
In the tropical seas, the main fishing grounds are shared with marine turtle's habitats and migration routes. As a result, while fishing species of commercial value with long-lines, other species are unintentionally caught as well. This is known as bycatch.
The bycatch problem is directly linked to the use of J hooks in long-line fishing operations. Marine turtles are attracted by baits hanging from the line, by biting the hooks turtles usually suffer fatal injuries. When fishermen find hooked turtles in the line, they can decide to unhook turtles, but lack of knowledge on how to do this properly can cause further damage, thus reducing the chance of survival of hooked turtles.
In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, marine turtle bycatch mitigation in longline fisheries is being accomplished through a collaborative project with the fishing industry and artisanal fishermen. The website shows how WWF is working with fishermen and other stakeholders to engage them in efforts to protect marine turtles, while still maintaining their essential fishing activities.
Of the different approaches to mitigate the bycatch impact of longline fishing, the replacement of the traditional J hooks by circle hooks along with better handling of marine turtles is the most promising. Fishermen are trained in the correct use of circle hooks, and on best fishing practices to correctly recover and release unharmed hooked turtles.
The collaborative engagement approach of WWF's Latin America and Caribbean Sustainable Fisheries Programme is leading to a profound transformation in longline fishing in the waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Click here to visit the website and find out more.