A National Bycatch Report has just been released by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), revealing the shocking details that at least 11,772 sea turtles were seriously injured or killed by U.S. fisheries in 2005. Of all fisheries in the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery has the worst bycatch ratio, estimated at 76%. This means for every pound of shrimp caught, three pounds of other marine life, such as sea turtles or juvenile fishes, are caught and possibly killed.
Sea turtles were the hardest hit of all non-fish species as bycatch. U.S. fisheries killed or seriously injured 11,772 sea turtles, 1,887 marine mammals, and 7,669 seabirds in 2005. Southeast fisheries, lead by the deadly Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery, were responsible for 10,671 of the total sea turtles killed or seriously injured. Loggerheads were most impacted, representing 53% (6,281) of the sea turtles, followed by endangered Kemp’s ridleys 36% (4,222). Loggerheads in the Pacific are now an endangered species, click here for the September 16 press release.
Southeast fisheries, which include the Gulf of Mexico, have a bycatch ratio of 76%, almost three times higher than the next-closest fishery, the Pacific Islands region at 27%. Of 48 fisheries included in the Southeast, only 12 have observer programs, 10 actually reported bycatch estimates, meaning only 17% of known landings could be evaluated by NMFS for the bycatch reporting estimates. Overall, as a nation, U.S. fisheries average 17% bycatch with 63% of landings able to be evaluated.
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project works continuously to demand bycatch reductions in all U.S. fisheries, increased observer coverage in all fisheries, and believes sustainable ocean solutions exist to end the senseless slaughter of sea turtles by U.S. and international fisheries. The NMFS report validates our focus on these issues as a priority for sea turtle conservation.
Take action today to urge more enforcement of Turtle Excluder Devices in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery!
Using only data collected from 2005, the report states that for 55% of fisheries there is no data, unreliable data, or unreliable estimates of sea turtle and marine mammal bycatch. This long overdue review is required under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, all of which require NMFS to reduce the unnecessary deaths of endangered sea turtles and marine mammals by fisheries. The new report is the first national compilation of bycatch estimates for U.S. fisheries. NMFS has scheduled its next National Bycatch Report to be completed in 2013.
Click on the link below to download the 40-page Executive Summary of the first National Bycatch Report.