When the National Marine Fisheries Service released its first National Bycatch Report, the expert summary of U.S. fisheries impacts to endangered sea turtles compiled from the 500 plus page report by Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s Dr. Chris Pincetich was used extensively by the Mississippi Sun Herald newspaper in their story focused on Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawling.

Read the story below, and click here to read STRP’s summary of the NMFS National Bycatch Report, its implications for sea turtle conservation, and access the Executive summary of the NMFS report.

Click here to download a pdf copy of the Sun Herald news story.

Report: 11,772 sea turtles injured or killed in 2005 by commercial fishing
By KAREN NELSON – klnelson@sunherald.com , September 27, 2011

GULFPORT — A new national report released by NOAA Fisheries on commercial fishing “bycatch” — animals caught unintentionally — says at least 11,772 sea turtles were seriously injured or killed by fishermen in 2005.

And of all the fishing operations, the Gulf of Mexico shrimpers had the worst ratio of catch to bycatch.

The report, a first of its kind, estimates the Gulf fishery ratio was 76 percent, which 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 the protected species and non-fish, said Chris Pincetich, a marine biologist with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project in California.

The bulk of the report is on fish caught by accident, including sharks and bluefin tuna. The report said of the 6 billion pounds of fish and shrimp caught in 2005, almost 2 billion pounds were bycatch.

In that figure are 11,772 sea turtles, 1,887 marine mammals and 7,669 seabirds killed or seriously injured in 2005, Pincetich said, quoting the 500-page report.

Southeast fisheries, led by the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawlers, were responsible for 10,671 of the total sea turtles killed or seriously injured. Southeast fisheries includes Atlantic fishing from Georgia, Florida and North and South Carolina.

Loggerheads were the most affected species, representing 53 percent or 6,281 of the sea turtles, followed by the endangered Kemp’s ridley at 36 percent or 4,222. In the report, the southeast fisheries’ bycatch ratio of 76 percent was almost three times higher than the next-closest fishery, which was the Pacific Islands region at 27 percent.

Of 48 fisheries included in the southeast region, only 10 actually reported bycatch estimates, meaning only 17 percent of known landings could be evaluated by NOAA Fisheries for the reporting estimates, Pincetich said. The national fisheries average was a 17 percent bycatch and 63 percent of landings were able to be evaluated.

One of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s goals is to have the federal government reduce the amount of bycatch and increase observer coverage in the fishing industry.

Pincetich said, “The report validates our focus on these issues as a priority for sea turtle conservation.

“Since the data is all from 2005 it is not new news per se, but it adds more validity to background and ongoing discussions that the Gulf shrimp trawlers have the worst bycatch and kill the most sea turtles of any U.S. fishery,” Pincetich said. “This review is long overdue.”

According to the report, the review was done to satisfy NOAA’s obligations as set out in the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

A NOAA representative said another bycatch report is expected in 2013.