5 Sep 2023
Sea Turtles in Argentina: Interaction Between Fisheries and Good Handling Practices on Board
Fisheries are the main anthropogenic influence on marine systems, affecting animals and their habitats. The expansion of this activity in coastal areas has contributed to the decline of sea turtle populations worldwide and is currently considered the greatest threat to these reptiles. Argentinian waters are the southernmost feeding and development area in the Southwest Atlantic for three species of sea turtles: loggerhead, green and leatherback. The highly productive areas used by these species are also the major fishing grounds for the fleets operating in the area. This overlap can result in potential and significant interactions. Assessing the magnitude of these impacts is a challenge because there are no observer programmes in these fleets.
Under a 1st RSG and the cooperation of fishers, we successfully advanced our knowledge on the impact of fisheries on sea turtles in Argentina and have identified critical points for improvement. We have developed a very positive interaction with the crews and helped them to improve their skills in handling animals. However, there are still some practices that may be detrimental to the sea turtles survival, which are address in this new project.
This project seeks to: (1) Promote awareness and monitoring of sea turtle bycatch in a main impact area; (2) Improve the survival of incidental captures by promoting the use of good handling practices to release sea turtles; (3) Involve the local community in sea turtle conservation through an educational programme for children living near port areas.
We believe that the cooperative work with fishers is essential, because they are a fundamental tool for sea turtles conservation in our country. This not only allows us to expand our knowledge about this problem in the region, but also to promote the use of improved techniques for handling and releasing incidental captures.
Through this project, a more complete database will be obtained that will allow better estimates of sea turtles mortality. We will focus on training the fishers to make the best decisions on board, which will ultimately favour the long-term conservation of these animals and, at the same time, avoid possible negative economic impacts in the fishing communities. We will also involve children from traditional fishing families in sea turtle conservation practices. All these actions will contribute to the National Sea Turtle Action Plan to reduce the interaction of sea turtles with fisheries in Argentina.
Header: A loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) released by a commercial fisher. © Sofia Jones.