Project Description

Turtle Conservation in tuna fisheries

Sea turtles are a highly threatened species group – with the majority of sea turtle populations across our oceans in decline. The biggest threat to juvenile and adult sea turtles is the incidental capture in fisheries, where they are often taken as bycatch.

An integrated approach to sea turtle conservation is required, which includes both preventative measures to mitigate bycatch mortality of sea turtles and proactive measures to support the recovery of critically endangered sea turtle populations. What is more, reconciling sea turtle conservation with continued fishing is essential, because it is politically and socio-economically unfeasible to halt all fishing activity throughout turtles’ global ranges.

Recognising these needs, the Blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles takes a holistic approach to turtle conservation in the Pacific ocean, which address multiple sources of anthropogenic mortality at critical stages in sea turtle’s life cycle. These include:

1.Effective protection of turtle nesting beaches through beach conservation, to maximize hatchling production

2.Reduced take of turtles in fisheries, to enhance at-sea survival of juveniles and adults at critical foraging areas and as they move into different developmental habitats by dealing with large-scale, commercial fishing fleets

3.Sustainability of traditional use in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal coastal fisheries

This action plan can be implemented via a conservation hierarchy approach, where the conservation hierarchy framework guides management actions to achieve no net loss of sea turtles. Here we map out how the Blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles can be implemented through the Conservation Hierarchy, and specific actions taken by different fisheries.

CLICK FOR EXAMPLES OF SPECIFIC ACTIONS UNDER EACH CONSERVATION HIERARCHY STEP:

Goal: Healthy turtle populations

Overarching objective under blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtle

  • Avoiding interactions of turtles in fisheries to enhance at-sea survival of juveniles and adults at critical foraging areas

Implementation actions by different fisheries

Hawaii shallow-set pelagic longline swordfish fishery

  • Implemented a three-year time-area fishing closure from 2001-2004, which was replaced in 2004 by a real-time spatial management system for avoiding sea turtle hot spots.

California drift gillnet swordfish fishery

  • Implements a time-area closure of ~90% of the fishing ground north of Point Conception, which is critical habitat for sea turtles

Tuna longlines in the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)

  • Large-scale pelagic driftnets prohibition

Overarching objective under blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles

  • Minimising take of turtles in fisheries interactions to enhance at-sea survival of juveniles and adults at critical foraging areas and as they move into different developmental habitats
  • Encouraging sustainability traditional use in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal coastal fisheries

Implementation actions by different fisheries

Hawaii shallow-set pelagic longline swordfish fishery

  • Technology standard mandates use of circle hooks and mackerel-type bait that reduce sea turtle interactions
  • Industry-wide performance standard through bycatch limits on each species

California drift gillnet swordfish fishery

  • Industry-wide performance standard through bycatch limits on each species

Tuna longlines in the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)

  • Vessel and skipper best-practice guidelines for reducing interactions:
  • Use wide circle hooks (18/0 or larger)
  • Use fish rather than squid for bait
  • Set hooks deeper than turtle-abundant depths (40–100 m)

Overarching objective under blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles

  • Increasing post-catch release and survival to enhance at-sea survival of juveniles and adults at critical foraging and as they move into different developmental habitats

Implementation actions by different fisheries

Hawaii shallow-set pelagic longline swordfish fishery

  • Line cutters and de-hookers mandated for each vessel to minimize post-hooking mortality. Circle hooks and mackerel-type bait also reduce post-hooking mortality.

California drift gillnet swordfish fishery

Tuna longlines in the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)

  • Vessel and skipper best-practice guidelines for de-hooking, untangling and safe release:
  • Use de-hooker
  • Cut the line with line cutter

Overarching objective under blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles

  • Funding beach conservation to effectively protect nesting females, their eggs, and critical breeding habitat to maximize hatchling production in fishery-affected populations
  • Funding for community-based conservation projects to reduce take in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fisheries

Implementation actions by different fisheries

Hawaii shallow-set pelagic longline swordfish fishery

California drift gillnet swordfish fishery

  • The fishery paid a one-off voluntary, lump sum tax of $20,000 (spread over 2 years) which was invested in nesting site protection in Baja California, Mexico.

Tuna longlines in the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)

  • A voluntary bycatch tax of US$1/ton of longline-caught tuna is paid by all tuna processors. Through the ISSF, this is invested in ten high-priority sea turtle conservation projects in the Atlantic, Indian, Eastern Pacific, and Western and Central Pacific Oceans. Projects include community-based nesting site protection, bycatch reduction in small-scale fisheries, and education and research
  • Proactive beach and coastal conservation to protect nesting and foraging habitat
  • Proactive community-based conservation to reduce take of eggs and live turtles in small-scale fisheries
  • Applied research in to the threats facing sea turtles, and developing more effective conservation approaches (e.g. gear innovations)
  • Youth education and advocacy for turtle conservation
  • Strengthening and improving coordination of international conservation and fisheries treaties and agreements