Sea turtle bycatch in the Chilean pelagic longline fishery in the southeastern Pacific: Opportunities for conservation

Miguel Donoso, P. H. Dutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Data are presented on sea turtles caught in the Chilean longline fishery targeting swordfish, Xiphias gladius, in international waters off Chile. A total of 10,604,059 hooks from 7976 sets were observed, representing 94% of the total number of hooks fished between 2001 and 2005. Leatherbacks, Dermochelys coriacea, (n= 284) and loggerheads, Caretta caretta, (n= 59) were the most common species captured. Leatherbacks were caught in less than 4% of the sets, with an overall mean of 0.0268 turtles per 1000 hooks. Loggerheads were caught in less than 1% of the sets with a mean catch rate of 0.0056 turtles per 1000 hooks. Most leatherbacks (97.5% of total) were caught between 24°S and 38°S, while loggerheads were caught primarily in the northern portion of the area fished, between 24°19′S and 25°31′S. All loggerheads were dehooked where appropriate and released alive. A total of two leatherbacks were found dead. Despite the low catch rate of leatherbacks, the potential impact of this fishery on the severely depleted nesting populations in the eastern Pacific could be significant when combined with other fisheries and threats in the region. The very low mortality of bycaught sea turtles observed in our study is encouraging and suggests that there are opportunities for further reducing harmful effects of swordfish longline fishing on sea turtles. Results of spatial analysis of loggerhead bycatch relative to fishing effort show that closure of the northernmost fishing area would eliminate the majority of the loggerhead bycatch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2672-2684
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume143
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bycatch
  • Fisheries
  • Incidental take
  • Longlines
  • Marine conservation
  • Sea turtles

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