Newswise — On April 16 the International Sea Turtle Symposium (ISTS) in New Orleans, will hold a special session on how turtle conservationists and fishers can work more collaboratively to find joint solutions to the issues they face.

Bycatch or the accidental capture of marine turtles in fisheries is one of the most significant threats to marine turtles today. Every year hundreds of thousands of turtles die through incidental catch in fishing gear worldwide. Today scientists and conservationists have learned that the best way to find solutions that both reduce bycatch and maintain the livelihoods of fishers is by working jointly. This year’s ISTS will feature a special session on achieving this through the Collaborative Fisheries Research (CFR) method. The venue is ideal since Louisiana is experiencing an emerging turtle bycatch concern in the inshore shrimp trawl industry.

“The use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) has helped curb sea turtle fisheries-related mortality in the US and many countries,” said Roldán Valverde, president of the International Sea Turtle Society and assistant professor of biological sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University. “I view this CFR session as an important step toward developing questions on fisheries research that will be implemented internationally and in our own bayous. The inshore waters of Louisiana and other areas where the TED issue is not yet resolved will certainly benefit from the development of bycatch mitigation strategies, especially if existing barriers between industry and scientists can be broken down using the CFR method”.

While turtle excluder devices prevent the capture and drowning of marine turtles in trawls and have been around for over 30 years, certain shrimp fishers embrace TEDs and others have questioned the use of this gear. How can scientists work with the fishing industry to consider the adoption of TEDs to reduce marine turtle bycatch while maintaining their catches?

This is one of the questions that will be explored during the special Collaborative Fisheries Research session on April 16 at the ISTS annual meeting in the New Orleans Marriot Hotel through the sponsorship of Virginia Sea Grant and WWF.

“Collaborative fisheries research provides a wonderful opportunity and proven method for marine conservationists and the fishing industry to jointly explore solutions to challenging bycatch problems,” said Troy Hartley, director of Virginia Sea Grant and a session co-organizer, “Globally-recognized leaders in collaborative fisheries research are participating in this session, and as a result, the session will build capacity and could inspire new conservationist—fishermen partnerships world-wide.”

Presenters will discuss research on the CFR method and provide examples of conservation measures that have been developed in partnership with the fishing industry—innovations that have benefited not only turtles but also sea birds, marine mammals and people. The session will actively engage attendees and their experiences with the fishing industry, improve CFR skills and capacity, enhance professional CFR mentoring networks, and foster new CFR projects worldwide.

“We strongly believe that by working together, conservationists and fishers can find solutions that benefit both species and people,” said Aimée Leslie, Global Cetacean and Marine Turtle Programme Manager for WWF International. “Our International Smart Gear Competition is a great example of cross-sector collaboration that is achieving results. We look forward to working with participants at this symposium session to build bridges that lead us to the sustainable fisheries we need to protect our marine life for future generations.”


Note to the editors:

Leading practitioners and academics in the field participating in the event include: Martin Hall, Head of Tuna-Dolphin Program, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission; Mike Osmond, WWF Fisheries Program Officer and International Smart Gear Competition Lead; John Mitchell, Team Leader of the Harvesting Systems Branch of Southeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA; Hoyt Peckham Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University; Troy Hartley, Director of Virginia Sea Grant, Research Associate Professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. In addition, there will be presentations representing work in Hawaii, Bangladesh, Chile, Gabon, and then Atlantic open ocean.

For further information:

Tony Nalovic, Collaborative Fisheries Research Fellow, Virginia Institute of Marine [email protected], 504-520-0930