Incidental capture of sea turtles in the artisanal gillnet fishery in Sechura Bay, northern Peru
Gillnets are recognized globally as one of the fishing gears with the highest levels of bycatch and mortality of sea turtles. Through onboard observer monitoring from July 2013 to June 2014 we assessed the bycatch of sea turtles by an artisanal gillnet fishery operating from Sechura Bay, Peru. One hundred and four sea turtles were incidentally caught in 53 observed fishing sets. The observed species composition of bycatch was green turtle Chelonia mydas (n = 100), hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata (n = 3) and olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea (n = 1). Bycatch occurred in 62.3% of monitored sets, with an average of 1.96 turtles caught per set. For all sea turtles combined, 28.8% of individuals were dead and 71.2% were alive at the time of retrieval. The majority of individuals caught were classified as juveniles and sub-adults, with an average carapace length (CCL) of 57.3 ± 0.9 cm for green turtles and 40.2 ± 2.4 cm for hawksbills. The mean annual catch per unit effort (CPUE) of sea turtles was 1.11 ± 0.31 turtles km-1 12 h-1), but varied by seasons. These results suggest that Sechura Bay is an important developmental habitat for juvenile and sub-adult green turtles and hawksbill turtles, but one subject to intense fishing interaction pressure. The development of monitoring programs, local awareness-raising activities, and enhanced management and protection of this critical foraging area and developmental habitat is recommended.