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Salty Lady Hooks Sea Turtle While Fishing For Salmon

(Photo courtesy of the Salty Lady)

For Immediate Release

Contact: Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 488-7652, Captain Roger Thomas, Salty Lady, (415) 674-3474

Olema, Calif. (Sept. 9, 2014)— A recreational fisher hoping to land a chinook salmon for dinner, instead hooked an endangered Pacific green sea turtle, (also called a black turtle), while fishing off the coast of San Francisco (near Buoy 1, just outside the Golden Gate).

Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org), based in Marin County, received a call from the Captain of the Salty Lady charter fishing boat, Roger Thomas reporting the unusual catch.  Thomas has been fishing these waters for decades and though he has seen his share of the giant leatherback sea turtles off the coast, this was the first hard-shell turtle he has ever seen get hooked off his vessel.

The animal was netted, unhooked and returned to sea unharmed thanks to the quick thinking of Captain Thomas. In addition to the sea turtle, anglers on the Salty Lady have been catching lots of big salmon on recent trips leaving from Sausalito, Calif.

Pacific green turtles are mostly found in Mexico and south, though there is a small population that resides near the power plant in San Diego Bay.  The nearest significant nesting population is found in the Mexican State of Michoacan, more than 2,000 miles south of San Francisco.  They are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act due to overharvesting of adults and eggs.  Green turtles are long-lived, reaching sexual maturity between 20-50 years of age with adult females returning to their natal beach to lay their eggs.

“Finding an endangered  green turtle in the cold waters off San Francisco is extremely unusual, even during warmer water temperatures during an El Nino event,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.  “While Pacific leatherbacks are known to feed off the coast here in summer and fall, green turtles  prefer much warmer waters of the eastern Pacific.”

According to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Recovery Plan for U.S. Pacific Populations of the East Pacific Green Turtle (1998), “As late as the 1960s the East Pacific green turtle was still abundant in its major nesting grounds in North America; that is the beaches of Colola and Maruata Bay, Michoacán, Mexico. It is estimated that in the late 1960s, 500 – 1,000 females nested nightly in Colola during peak season…  In the northern Mexican feeding grounds East Pacific green turtles were first heavily fished at the turn of the century, when an estimated 1,000 East Pacific green turtles per month were shipped from the Pacific side of Baja California (Magdalena Bay, Scammon’s Lagoon, Tortugas Bay) and Gulf of California (Bahia de los Angeles) to San Diego and San Francisco in California, United States (O’Donnell 1974 in Cliffton et al. 1982). By the 1930’s, the market for sea turtle meat had decreased in the United States, while in Mexico – especially in the border towns of Tijuana, Mexicali and Nogales, and the major cities in Baja California and Sonora – the demand for turtle meat grew steadily. From 1956 to 1963, East Pacific green turtles harvested in the northern Mexican feeding grounds were the most important component of the Mexican turtle fishery, with a total live weight production of 3,430 metric tons (Groombridge and Luxmoore 1989). In the early 1970s large numbers of overwintering East Pacific green turtles were discovered near Tiburon Island in the Gulf of California. The torpid turtles were lying motionless at depths of 10-30m (Felger et al. 1976). Intensive hunting of the easily caught overwintering turtles began in 1975, when five boats were landing 4-5 metric tons of turtles per week from late November to early March (Cliffton et al. 1982). Overwintering sites were successively decimated and the East Pacific green turtle was “virtually extirpated” from the Gulf of California by the late 1970s (Cliffton et al. 1982). According to Cliffton (in litt. to J. Woody, 5 May 1991) who conducted a 30-day exploration of the Midriff Islands region in the summer of 1990, adult East Pacific green turtles were extremely scarce. Cliffton quotes native informants as stating that most of the East Pacific green turtles remaining in the Upper Gulf of California are juveniles weighing an average of about 20 kg.”

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Turtle Island Restoration Network (www.SeaTurtles.org) is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in Marin County, California whose 150,000+ members and online activists work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world.

Salty Lady Sportfishing (http://www.saltylady.com)is a recreational fishing charter vessel based in Sausalito, CA.  Captain Roger Thomas offers a lifetime of fishing experience and a large, fast, comfortable boat to fish from. There may be big fish; there may be many fish. You will always be given the best possible chance to catch your next limit whether we are trolling, mooching or drifting with the salty Lady.  The Salty Lady also offers whale watching and sight seeing tours and can be reached at (415) 674-3474.