New Technique Traces Link between Fishing and Sea Turtles

Underwater Leatherback Turtle, photo by Guy Marcovaldi, Marine Photobank
Leatherback turtle entangled and caught on a longline. Photo credit: Guy Marcovaldi, Marine Photobank. 

Each year, leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) interact with the United States longline fishery; many are caught and sampled by the observers with the SEFSC Pelagic Observer Program. SWFSC scientists, including marine biologist Kelly Stewart, used the comprehensive nesting population structure for the Atlantic, determined using microsatellite markers, to assign bycaught individuals to their nesting beach of origin. They found that the Costa Rican leatherback population, which numbers approximately 2,500 turtles, is being disproportionately caught in US longlines in the Gulf of Mexico compared to other foraging areas, where turtles from Trinidad generally predominate the bycatch. This bycatch assessment will help scientists to evaluate the relative risk to nesting populations throughout the Atlantic from major anthropogenic threats.

Read more about this in the recently published Kelly Stewart, et al, paper, “ Nesting population origins of leatherback turtles caught as bycatch in the U.S. pelagic longline fishery The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer

Leatherback Turtle on the Surface, photo by Scott Benson   Leatherback Hatchling on the Beach, photo by Kelly Stewart   Leatherback on the Beach with Tourists, photo by Kelly Stewart
A leatherback turtle swims off California. Photo credit: Scott Benson.   Leatherback hatchling leaving the beach at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo credit: Kelly Stewart.   Curious beach goers watch a nesting turtle during daylight hours, Jupiter island, Florida. Photo credit: Kelly Stewart.

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