Illegal capture and black market trade of sea turtles in Pisco, Peru: the never-ending story
The Pisco-San Andres area (13°44'S, 76°13'W) in central Peru is known for a traditional historic sea turtle fishery. To determine if illegal captures and black market trade exist, we carried out bi-weekly sampling in dumpsites and coastal areas from 2009 to 2015. A total of 953 carapaces were encountered, which included mainly black turtles (Chelonia mydas, 92.2%) and to a lesser extent, olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea, 4.3%), leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea, 1.4%), and a single hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate, 0.1%). The mean curved carapace length (CCL) was 59.1 for black turtles, 60.4 for olive ridleys and 113 cm for leatherbacks. For all species, most of turtles reported were juveniles and came largely from illegal captures (89%) and not from stranding reports (1.4%). Mean mortality was 8.1 carcasses km-1 year-1 at beaches and 160.2 carcasses year-1 at dumpsites. Main consumed prey items in black turtles were silverside fish eggs (47.9%), Chondracanthus seaweed (31.4%) and Paranthus sp., anemone (16.2%). Despite the big sampling effort, mortality estimates could be underestimated since big percentages are butchered and discarded at sea. Still, numbers remains high with almost 1000 turtles in a five-year period and an illegal trade persists. Urgent measures are needed to recover this endangered species.