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Feb 13, 2014 09:00 PM IST | Source:

Endangered turtles falling prey to by-catch

Endangered turtles falling prey to by-catch

Turtles have inhabited the oceans across the world for millions of years. In the present day only seven species still exist, among which three are found in the Mediterranean Sea. These species namely the green turtle, the leatherback turtle and the loggerhead turtle are classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Researchers believe that by-catch of endangered marine turtles are rapidly becoming an alarming issue. Turtles die soon after being released by fishermen and are thus, falling prey to delayed mortality syndrome. It is a disease where the turtles fall ill and even die after being moved to another environment. According to reliable sources, every year thousands of loggerhead turtles are caught as by-catch by the Spanish longline fleet alone and nearly 40% of them die within three months of being released back into the sea.

Reason for death of turtles

Bait hooks used for fishing sometimes get lodged in the jaws, mouths or other parts of the turtles. The fishermen instead of removing the hooks they merely cut the lines, releasing the turtles into the water. The hooks and lines swallowed by these sea creatures go down their alimentary tract and leads to their death. They also become vulnerable to unintended capture by fishermen due to their migratory nature.

Similar is the fate of leatherback turtles meandering across the Atlantic Ocean. By-catch is increasingly becoming a huge problem. Scientists have devised ways and means to track the paths of the turtles and identified nine zones where leatherbacks and fishermen generally clash in the Atlantic Ocean. The population of leatherback turtles in the Pacific Ocean are much less where they are considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN.

It is important to protect endangered species in order to preserve biodiversity of the Earth. Moreover, every animal plays a significant role in the food chain.

picture courtesy- mongabay


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