Small-Scale Fisheries Bycatch Jeopardizes EndangeredPacific Loggerhead Turtles
S. Hoyt Peckham
, David Maldonado Diaz
, Andreas Walli
, Georgita Ruiz
, Larry B. Crowder
, Wallace J. Nichols
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, United States of America,
GrupoTortuguero A.C., La Paz, Baja California Sur, Me´xico,
Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, California, United States of America,
Grupo Tortuguero A.C., Distrito Federal, Me´xico,
Center for Marine Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, DukeUniversity, Beaufort, North Carolina, United States of America,
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, United States of America,
Ocean Conservancy, Davenport, California, United States of America
Although bycatch of industrial-scale fisheries can cause declines in migratory megafauna including seabirds,marine mammals, and sea turtles, the impacts of small-scale fisheries have been largely overlooked. Small-scale fisheries occurin coastal waters worldwide, employing over 99% of the world’s 51 million fishers. New telemetry data reveal that migratorymegafauna frequent coastal habitats well within the range of small-scale fisheries, potentially producing high bycatch. Thesefisheries occur primarily in developing nations, and their documentation and management are limited or non-existent,precluding evaluation of their impacts on non-target megafauna.
30 North Pacificloggerhead turtles that we satellite-tracked from 1996–2005 ranged oceanwide, but juveniles spent 70% of their time at a highuse area coincident with small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico (BCS). We assessed loggerhead bycatch mortality inthis area by partnering with local fishers to 1) observe two small-scale fleets that operated closest to the high use area and 2)through shoreline surveys for discarded carcasses. Minimum annual bycatch mortality in just these two fleets at the high usearea exceeded 1000 loggerheads year
, rivaling that of oceanwide industrial-scale fisheries, and threatening the persistenceof this critically endangered population. As a result of fisher participation in this study and a bycatch awareness campaign,a consortium of local fishers and other citizens are working to eliminate their bycatch and to establish a national loggerheadrefuge.
Because of the overlap of ubiquitous small-scale fisheries with newly documented high-use areas in coastal waters worldwide, our case study suggests that small-scale fisheries may be among the greatest currentthreats to non-target megafauna. Future research is urgently needed to quantify small-scale fisheries bycatch worldwide.Localizing coastal high use areas and mitigating bycatch in partnership with small-scale fishers may provide a crucial solutiontoward ensuring the persistence of vulnerable megafauna.
Citation: Peckham SH, Maldonado Diaz D, Walli A, Ruiz G, Crowder LB, et al (2007) Small-Scale Fisheries Bycatch Jeopardizes Endangered PacificLoggerhead Turtles. PLoS ONE 2(10): e1041. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001041
Though the unintended catch
of industrial-scale fisheriescan cause declines in migratory megafauna including seabirds,marine mammals, and sea turtles [1–7], the bycatch of small-scalefisheries has been overlooked. Small-scale fisheries, including artisanal, traditional and subsistence fisheries, occur in coastalwaters worldwide, employing over 99% of the world’s 51 millionfishers . But bycatch assessment and mitigation has focused onindustrial rather than small-scale fisheries because the magnitudeof industrial operations can yield high total bycatch, and data havenot been available for small-scale fisheries .Small-scale fisheries occur primarily in developing nations, andtheir documentation and management are limited or non-existent[10,11], precluding evaluation of their impacts on non-targetmegafauna in coastal waters. New telemetry data reveal thatmigratory megafauna frequent coastal high use areas well withinthe range of small-scale fisheries, potentially producing highbycatch mortality with grave conservation consequences forvulnerable populations [12,13].Because many migratory megafauna are declining yet haveecological, economic, and cultural importance [5,14,15], assessing and mitigating bycatch that threatens them is a global conservationpriority [4,6]. Many species of migratory megafauna have delayedreproduction and low fecundity, making their populations vulner-able to bycatch of reproductively-valuable, late juvenile and adultstages , especially where they overlap with intense fisheries.As a case study, we quantified the impacts of small-scale fisheriesbycatch on the North Pacific loggerhead turtle population. NorthPacific loggerheads nest exclusively in Japan, and annual censusesindicate as much as a 90% decrease in nesting females within thepast three generations to fewer than 1000 yr
, qualifying thepopulation for critically endangered status . Their juvenilestage lasts several decades during which turtles can migrate acrossthe North Pacific [18,19]. Extensive telemetry studies haverecently revealed important foraging habitat for juvenile logger-heads in the central North Pacific [20,21], and high levels of
Colin Allen, Indiana University, United States of America
July 23, 2007;
September 8, 2007;
2007 Peckham et al. This is an open-access article distributedunder the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permitsunrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided theoriginal author and source are credited.
This work was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation,USFWS, NMFS-SWFSC, Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, ProjectGLOBAL, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, PADI Foundation, T&E Founda-tion, Wallace Research Foundation, School for Field Studies, Earthwatch Institute,ONR/National Oceanographic Partnership Program, Ocean Conservancy andProPeninsula. WJN was supported by Fulbright and Marshall Fellowships. SHP wassupported with CILS-NSF, Project Global and UCMEXUS graduate fellowships andawards.
The authors have declared that no competing interestsexist.
* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org 1 October 2007 | Issue 10 | e1041