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Assessment of incidental sea turtle catch in the artisanal gillnet fishery in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies

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image of Applied Herpetology

A study was conducted on the incidental capture of sea turtles in the artisanal gillnet fishery in Trinidad and Tobago. The objectives were (i) to determine the fishing effort; (ii) to identify gillnet fishing areas and seasonality of turtle capture; (iii) to quantify the numbers, species and fate of captured turtles; (iv) to solicit the opinions of fishermen on turtle capture and; (v) to recommend measures to reduce sea turtle bycatch, if necessary. A survey questionnaire was used to carry out field surveys from March 2001 to February 2002 at 27 fish landing sites around Trinidad. Results indicated that green multifilament net was generally used in artisanal drift gillnet operations that target carite, Scomberomorus brasiliensis, and kingfish, S. cavalla, on all coasts. Gillnet fishing was conducted year-round by 71% of the fishermen interviewed. Of the turtle species captured in this fishery, the leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, was reported as the most common and problematic. Over 3000 adult turtles were estimated to have been caught in the gillnet fishery in 2000. Incidental capture occurred off the north and east coasts of Trinidad during January to August, when these marine reptiles are approaching nesting beaches. Fishermen reported that approximately 73% of leatherback captures on the north coast and 66% on the east coast were released alive during the study period. Recommended measures to reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles include revising fisheries legislation; providing training and financial support for fishermen to increase the adoption of alternative fishing methods; and educating fishermen on how their fishing practices can affect the survival of a species facing extinction.


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