Pan-Atlantic analysis of the overlap of a highly migratory species, the leatherback turtle, with pelagic longline fisheries
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
© 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Large oceanic migrants play important roles in ecosystems, yet many species are of conservation concern as a result of anthropogenic threats, of which incidental capture by fisheries is frequently identified. The last large populations of the leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, occur in the Atlantic Ocean, but interactions with industrial fisheries could jeopardize recent positive population trends, making bycatch mitigation a priority. Here, we perform the first pan-Atlantic analysis of spatio-temporal distribution of the leatherback turtle and ascertain overlap with longline fishing effort. Data suggest that the Atlantic probably consists of two regional management units: northern and southern (the latter including turtles breeding in South Africa). Although turtles and fisheries show highly diverse distributions, we highlight nine areas of high susceptibility to potential bycatch (four in the northern Atlantic and five in the southern/equatorial Atlantic) that are worthy of further targeted investigation and mitigation. These are reinforced by reports of leatherback bycatch at eight of these sites. International collaborative efforts are needed, especially from nations hosting regions where susceptibility to bycatch is likely to be high within their exclusive economic zone (northern Atlantic: Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Spain, USA and Western Sahara; southern Atlantic: Angola, Brazil, Namibia and UK) and from nations fishing in these high-susceptibility areas, including those located in international waters.
Work in Gabon was financially supported by the Large Pelagics Research Center through National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency award no. NA04NMF4550391, the UK Defra Darwin Initiative, the Shellshock Campaign (European Association for Zoos and Aquaria) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council. Sea turtle monitoring programmes in Gabon were financially supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and by the Gabon Sea Turtle Partnership with funding from the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund (United States Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior). Four of the satellite tags were deployed in Canadian waters by M. James (Dalhousie University) and the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, with the funding support of Canadian Sea Turtle Network leatherback field research provided by R. A. Myers, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Environment Canada and WWF-Canada. Work in French Guiana was financially supported by CNES, DEAL and the European Union.
This study results from the collaborative effort of 10 data providers, which have satellite-tracked leatherback turtles in the Atlantic Ocean since 1995, through their voluntary participation in the Trans-Atlantic Leatherback Conservation Initiative (TALCIN), a WWF-led initiative. We thank C. Drews (WWF-International) and Jean-Yves Georges (IPHC-CNRS) for having initiated this project. Significant contributions were made by A. Fonseca and M. L. Felix and the WWF Guianas office in fostering this project to secure its continuation. We thank those involved in the sea turtle restoration plan in French Guiana (DEAL, ONCFS, Kulalasi NGO, Kwata, the Reserve Naturelle de l'Amana, Chiefs of Awala and Yalimapo), Yvon Le Maho (IPHC-CNRS) for having initiated the leatherback tracking programme in French Guiana, colleagues from the Regional Program for Sea Turtles Research and Conservation of Argentina–PRICTMA, Aquamarina and Fundación Mundo Marino, the onboard scientific observers from PNOFA-DINARA, the crew and owner of the F/V Torres del Paine, the artisanal fishermen from Kiyú, San José, Uruguay, D. del Bene (PROFAUMA), Z. Di Rienzo and colleagues from Karumbé, the University of Pisa for initiating the satellite tagging programmes in South Africa, and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs for continuing the work in cooperation with Dr Nel from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. We thank M. L. Felix for her efforts in the deployment of satellite tags in Suriname and the Nature Conservation Division Suriname for facilitating these research efforts. P.M. thanks C. Palma for his help in dealing with ICCAT's database, C. Ere, as well as the GIS training and support received from SCGIS and the ESRI Conservation Program, which allowed processing of fishing-effort data. We thank J. Parezo for her careful reading of the manuscript. All authors designed the study and contributed data; S.F, M.S.C., P.M. and M.J.W. compiled the data; S.F., M.A.N. and A.L. coordinated and supervised the project; S.F., M.J.W., P.M. and B.J.G. led the data analysis and interpretation with contributions from all authors; the manuscript was developed by S.F. and M.J.W. as lead authors, with contributions from all authors.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 281, (1780): 20133065
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