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Strategy for Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery

  green turtle swims out of a net equipped with a turtle excluder device (TED)
Loggerhead turtle escaping a trawl net through a Turtle Excluder Device (TED)
(Caretta caretta)
Photo: NOAA

All species of sea turtles found in the U.S. are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Incidental capture in fisheries ("bycatch") is a primary threat to the recovery and conservation of sea turtles in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

Sea turtle bycatch needs to be evaluated and addressed comprehensively across jurisdictional boundaries and fishing sectors on a per-gear basis to determine where further measures may be needed to reduce sea turtle bycatch and recover sea turtle populations.

What is the Strategy?
The Strategy for Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery in Relation to Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fisheries (Strategy) is a program devoted to reducing sea turtle bycatch by evaluating and addressing priority gear types on a comprehensive per-gear basis throughout the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, rather than fishery by fishery.

Why a gear-based approach?
Certain types of gear are more prone to the incidental capture of sea turtles than others, depending on the design of the gear, the way the gear is fished, and the time and area in which the gear is fished. To date, sea turtle bycatch has been addressed fishery by fishery, often on an emergency basis. Management efforts have primarily focused on fisheries that have been the subject of ESA Section 7 consultations and thus have largely neglected sea turtle bycatch in state as well as recreational fisheries. Consequently, state and recreational fisheries may be taking sea turtles in violation of the ESA "take" prohibition. The Strategy will address sea turtle bycatch across jurisdictional boundaries and fisheries for gear types that have the greatest impact on sea turtle populations.

What steps are involved in the Strategy?
The Strategy involves the following major components:

  • characterize fisheries in State and Federal waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico;
  • develop a geographical information system depicting sea turtle distribution, bycatch, fisheries effort, regulated areas, and oceanographic information;
  • solicitat constituent input on the Strategy framework, prioritization of gears, and management alternatives; and
  • develop and implement management measures, where necessary, to reduce sea turtle bycatch.

For more information on the Strategy, please contact Alexis Gutierrez.

More Information

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