A small fishery with a high impact on sea turtle populations in the eastern Mediterranean

Yaniv Levy, Ori Frid, Adi Weinberger, Rotem Sade, Yoav Adam, Uria Kandanyan, Victoria Berkun, Noga Perry, Dor Edelist, Menachem Goren, Shevy Bat-Sheva Rothman, Nir Stern, Dan Tchernov, Rilov Gil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Sea turtles were targeted by fisheries in the Mediterranean from 1920 to 1970 and have undergone severe exploitation. At least 30,000 to 40,000 turtles were caught along the Palestinian coastline during the 1920s to 1930s. Although intentional cap- ture of marine turtles is now illegal, sea turtles are still incidentally caught by the fishing industry, making it a major cause of sea turtle mortality. The present study as- sesses the impact of the Israeli fishery fleet on the turtle population in the Levantine basin based on on-board observations and a fishermen survey. The results show that gillnets and trawlers are the main threats to sea turtles in this area. 21 turtles were caught during 1385.5 hours of trawling observations - a catch rate of 0.015 turtles per hour. We estimate that a total of 1,315 turtles are caught annually by Israeli trawlers. According to the fishermen survey, ∼21 turtles are caught each year by a single gillnet vessel, yielding an annual estimate of 1,672 turtles for the whole gillnet fleet. We have also found that only a small fraction of the turtles injured by trawlers is represented in the strandings. The mortality rate through trawling and the stranding density is the highest in the region, emphasizing the urgent need to regulate the Israe- li fishery. This fishery poses a major threat to the whole Levantine sea turtle popula- tion, especially during the vulnerable reproduction stage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-317
Number of pages18
JournalZoology in the Middle East
Volume61
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2015

Keywords

  • By-catch
  • Conservation; fishing
  • Fishery
  • Green Turtle
  • Loggerhead Turtle
  • Mediterranean Sea

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