Posted by admin | 01.14.2011 | Conservation, Turtle Talk

The Deadliest Catch

Which is more deadly: an oil spill or a fishing net? In the Gulf of Mexico, it’s the net. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other organizations performed necropsies on the 600 dead turtles found in the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the majority of those turtles were killed by fishing practices not oil ingestion.

Despite the images that filled our television of oil soaked beaches, nests, and animals, there was a more dangerous threat underneath the waves. We initially became aware of fishing related turtle mortality in the shrimping fishery, which brought about the creation and implementation of the Turtle Excluder Devices (or TEDs). This resulted in a decrease in bycatch, but, fishing practices are still threatening the Gulf turtle populations.

Jane Lubchenco, head of NOAA, has called for increased cooperation between her organization, the Gulf states, and the fishing industry. In her recent article she states more attention needs to be directed at both the TED requirements and the soak time of the nets. After notification by NOAA, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources added increased time restriction of shrimp trawling.

While progress has been made in bycatch reduction, fishing practices still pose a large threat to sea turtle populations worldwide. To correct this it will require a concerted effort on the part of consumers, fishermen, researchers, and policy makers around the globe.