Cumulative estimates of sea turtle bycatch and mortality in USA fisheries between 1990 and 2007
Sea turtles interact with a variety of fishing gears across their broad geographic distributions and ontogenetic habitat shifts. Cumulative assessments of multi-gear bycatch impacts on sea turtle populations are critical for coherent fisheries bycatch management, but such estimates are difficult to achieve, due to low fisheries observer effort, and a single-species, single-fishery management focus. We compiled the first cumulative estimates of sea turtle bycatch across fisheries of the United States between 1990 and 2007, before and after implementation of fisheries-specific bycatch mitigation measures. An annual mean of 346,500 turtle interactions was estimated to result in 71,000 annual deaths prior to establishment of bycatch mitigation measures in US fisheries. Current bycatch estimates (since implementation of mitigation measures) are ∼60% lower (137,800 interactions) and mortality estimates are ∼94% lower (4600 deaths) than pre-regulation estimates. The Southeast/Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Trawl fishery accounts for the overwhelming majority of sea turtle bycatch (up to 98%) in US fisheries, but estimates of bycatch in this fishery are fraught with high uncertainty due to lack of observer coverage. Our estimates represent minimum annual interactions and mortality because our methods were conservative and we could not analyze unobserved fisheries potentially interacting with sea turtles. Although considerable progress has been made in reducing sea turtle bycatch in US fisheries, management still needs improvement. We suggest that sea turtle bycatch limits be set across US fisheries, using an approach similar to the Potential Biological Removal algorithm mandated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Finkbeiner, EM; Wallace, BP; Moore, JE; Lewison, RL; Crowder, LB; Read, AJ
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