sea turtle trapped in a net
gillnet fishing

In California, the Environmental Non-Governmental Organisation are greeting the state budget year. This budget will fund commercial fisherman involves in a transition from deadly gillnett a solution which preserves endangered sea turtles.

For over 100 million years, turtles have roamed our oceans, with the exception of the Arctic Ocean. Today, six of the seven species of marine turtles are classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Marine turtles are locally protected or under restoration plans, but pollution, poaching and fishing gear, such as gillnet remain the main causes of the decline of the small population.

Nevertheless, protection of sea turtles made significant progresses in recent decades in many parts of the world. As an example, resorts and hotels in Florida and Hawaï took action by reducing beach lighting to avoid turtles to get disorientated.

In Mexico, the use of systems to allow turtles to escape from fishing nets saved Kemp’s ridley local population and loggerheads in the Atlantic. Some fishing fleets even employ observers to document turtle interactions.

Recently the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, in his 2021-2022 fiscal year budgets has allocated $1.3 million to take gillnet out of the water. The aim is to provide a substantial compensation ($110 000) for each fisherman returning gill nets.

Under state law, the Governor hopes that the entire fleet of California gill net will be phased out by 2024, and replaced by a type of fishing called “deep-set buoy gear,” much more selective. This technique is especially used to target sword fishes or tuna. It uses a hook-and-buoy, which hooks depth can be set in order to catch only the desire specie.

A study by the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) shows that depth setting appears to be the most important factor to avoid by-catch, much more efficient that the type of the bait used. The number of turtle by-catches in shallow water is ten times greater than catches on longlines set in deep water: if turtles may still get caught in deep water, the main danger remains the shallowest hooks.

Nevertheless, this program to change fishing method is not unanimously supported by Californian fishermen: some believe that deep-sed buoy gear will not provide enough catches to be financially viable.

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