Threats to Africa's Marine Turtles

By-catch of Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) rel=
By-catch of Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
© WWF-Canon / Helene PETIT

Incidental capture by trawlers, gillnets, and other fishing gears

Fishing techniques such as shrimp trawling and gill netting lead to the accidental capture of vast numbers of turtles in inshore waters. The extent of bycatch by offshore fisheries such as longliners is largely unknown but believed to be significant in some regions, particularly for leatherbacks.

While some incidentally captured turtles may be retained for their meat or other products, the most common cause of mortality is drowning. These impacts can be substantially reduced through the installation of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on trawl nets and by changes in the setting of gill nets to avoid areas frequented by turtles and to allow any trapped turtles to reach the sea surface to breathe.

Did You Know?

On Sofala bank in Mozambique, between 1,900 and 5,500 marine turtles are captured each year in shrimp trawls. Experimental use of TEDs supported by WWF has shown that their use does not incur any cost to shrimp operators in terms of handling time, catch size or catch quality, and may be beneficial as other large objects are also excluded (Gove et al, 2001).

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