Guebert, F.M., Barletta, M. and Costa, M.F., 2013. Threats to sea turtles in the Western Atlantic: poaching and mortality in small-scale fishery gears.
Interactions between small-scale fishery activities and sea turtles were investigated in coastal fishers' population of the South and Northeast Brazilian coast, Western Atlantic. Data were collected using semi-structured questionnaires (N=418). The presence of four sea turtle species was confirmed in the studied areas: Chelonia mydas, Caretta caretta, Eretmochelys imbricata and Dermochelys coriacea. Adults are commonly seen in the water, and nesting females and hatchlings on beaches, especially at the Northeast region. The presence of the three most easily distinguishable ontogenetic phases (hatchlings, juveniles and adults) confirms the importance of the estuaries and adjacent areas for sea turtles feeding, gathering, nesting, growing and resting grounds. Fishing was considered the most important threat to sea turtles (77%). Gillnets with small mesh sizes (<60 mm) more frequently interact with sea turtles (65%), and mortality was mostly related to gillnets with larger mesh sizes (>60 mm) (100%) (p<0.01). Although poaching is a cultural habit still practiced by many people, fishers did not openly assume it. In addition, most fishers (82%) (p<0.01) do not know that it is possible or how to recover sea turtles drowned in fishing gears. Conservation measures should be adopted by fishers to reduce sea turtle mortality such as monitoring soak gillnets more frequently, avoiding nets with larger mesh sizes and thicker threads, and an awareness campaign to provide recovery procedures for turtles drowning in fishing gears. This would be the basis of the design of desirable mitigation actions enhancing conservation efforts and benefiting marine diversity as a whole.