Friday, October 17, 2008

High Mortality of Loggerheads In Baja California

Graduate student Hoyt Peckham examines a dead sea turtle found during a survey in Baja California. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Santa Cruz)

Mom always tells me that she would like to just have one week when there is no bad news about sea turtles. Maybe that day will eventually arrive, but for now mom reads the bad news and is saddened by the fact the sea turtles are the innocent victims of greed.

Hoyt Peckham, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, along with other scientists have been counting the number of stranded loggerheads along the southern coast of Baja California, Mexico. The study was an effort to access and eliminate threats to loggerheads. The findings, in a report published this week, are shocking: from 2003 to 2007 almost 3,000 sea turtles were found dead along a 27-mile stretch of coast. 3,000 is a huge part of an unknown population. This is even more disturbing if the majority of the stranded turtles were adult females.

This study once again shows the enormous impact of bycatch on sea turtles. Peckham said that bycatch and, to a lesser degree, poaching are both significant threats to the survival of the endangered Pacific loggerhead population. "We saw what are apparently the highest documented stranding and fisheries bycatch rates in the world," he said. "But the high bycatch rates offer us all an unexpected conservation opportunity. By working with just a handful of fishermen to diminish their bycatch, we can save hundreds of turtles."

Peckham and his co-authors of the report are hoping that the report will encourage Mexico's government agencies to finalize creation of a refuge that protects turtles and encourages sustainable fishing in the area. Sustainable fishing is the only thing that is going to save marine life. We live in a sad world when refuges have to be created to protect sea turtles. Sea turtles used to roam the oceans free from the many threats they face today. Please do your part to help save sea turtles by not eating anything that comes from oceans. And if you feel that you have to eat oceanlife, please eat only things that have been caught sustainably. The sea turtles depend on you to make the right choices.

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