Bycatch - the grim reality

By-catch of Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) rel=
By-catch of Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).
© WWF-Canon / Helene PETIT
Promoting research and adoption of improved fishing gear and bycatch reduction measures.
Incidental catch in nets or on fishing hooks and lines, commonly called bycatch, is a major threat to marine turtles - requiring urgent and immediate action. Coastal small-scale gill net fisheries (sheets of mesh-like nets suspended in the water from boats or buoys, which effectively trap and entangle whatever swims into them), and coastal shrimp and other trawl fisheries all pose a serious threat to marine turtles.

There are some solutions on the horizon. Recent research conducted in the North Atlantic Ocean has demonstrated that long-line fishing gears and techniques can be improved to reduce bycatch of some turtle species by as much as 90%, while not significantly reducing the catch of target species.

WWF's work to reduce marine turtle bycatch
WWF is working with several partners and long-line fleets in the Eastern Pacific, to trial the new gear changes and measure their impact on turtle populations.

WWF is promoting and facilitating this spread of knowledge through both the territorial waters of Eastern and Western Pacific countries, as well as investigating management measures for the high seas to protect migration routes.

While Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) fitted to shrimp trawl nets can reduce turtle mortality by up to 80% in some cases, and also improve the quality of the shrimp catch, their use is not yet widespread through shrimp trawling fleets in the Asia Pacific region.

In partnership with all stakeholders
Community-based solutions to smallscale gill-net fisheries, the increased use of TEDs, and fisheries' management plans, must be developed in consultation with fisheries in high-risk areas of South East Asia, the north Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific.

WWF is working with fishing communities, governments, regional fisheries' management bodies and financial institutions to promote bycatch reduction within the framework of sustainable fisheries management.

As many as 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks are caught annually by commercial long-line tuna, swordfish, and similar fisheries around the globe.

Circle hooks surround a traditional "J" hook, at centre bottom. The use of large circle ... / ©: WWF / Liz McLellan
Circle hooks surround a traditional "J" hook, at centre bottom. The use of large circle hooks and turtle de-hooking devices are proving to be successful in experiments designed to reduce turtle bycatch in longline fishing gear.
© WWF / Liz McLellan

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