Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cooperative Efforts to Reduce Sea Turtle Bycatch

My research is made possible through many partnerships - as is typically the case when working with long-lived and migrating animals like sea turtles.  One group I partner with is Grupo Tortuguero, a community-based conservation and research program based in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  While green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) is one species common to the Pacific waters off of Baja's coast, another species of sea turtles is even more common to see - the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta).  The loggerhead turtles in the Pacific Ocean feed off the the Mexican coast, where they eat pelagic red crabs, and other benthic (bottom dwelling) invertebrates.  Yet these loggerheads do not nest along the Mexican coast, instead, most of them come all the way across the Pacific Ocean from their nesting grounds in Japan!

Grupo Tortuguero has collaborated with fishermen in Mexico, as well as fishermen in Japan, to help find creative ways to reduce the number of marine turtles captured in their fishing nets and lines.  Finding a solution to this problem not only protects the turtles, but it can help the fishermen make more money, by not loosing fishing gear to tangled turtles, and by not wasting time having to remove turtles from their nets and lines. So this cooperative is a win-win for all parties involved.

This short video shows a new turtle-release method being tested and demonstrated at a recent meeting in Japan.  (Note on the end - those surface lines appear to be in place for the sake of this test at the aquarium...)  Enjoy!