Putting longline bycatch of sea turtles into perspective

Conserv Biol. 2007 Feb;21(1):79-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00592.x.


Although some sea turtle populations are showing encouraging signs of recovery, others continue to decline. Reversing population declines requires an understanding of the primary factor(s) that underlie this persistent demographic trend. The list of putative factors includes direct turtle and egg harvest, egg predation, loss or degradation of nesting beach habitat, fisheries bycatch, pollution, and large-scale changes in oceanographic conditions and nutrient availability. Recently, fisheries bycatch, in particular bycatch from longline fisheries, has received increased attention and has been proposed as a primary source of turtle mortality. We reviewed the existing data on the relative impact of longline bycatch on sea turtle populations. Although bycatch rates from individual longline vessels are extremely low, the amount of gear deployed by longline vessels suggests that cumulative bycatch of turtles from older age classes is substantial. Current estimates suggest that even if pelagic longlines are not the largest single source of fisheries-related mortality, longline bycatch is high enough to warrant management actions in all fleets that encounter sea turtles. Nevertheless, preliminary data also suggest that bycatch from gillnets and trawl fisheries is equally high or higher than longline bycatch with far higher mortality rates. Until gillnet and trawl fisheries are subject to the same level of scrutiny given to pelagic longlines, our understanding of the overall impact of fisheries bycatch on vulnerable sea turtle populations will be incomplete.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fisheries / methods
  • Fisheries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Population Dynamics
  • Turtles*