ESR 34:431-448 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00865

REVIEW
A global review of marine turtle entanglement in anthropogenic debris: a baseline for further action

Emily M. Duncan1,2,3,*, Zara L. R. Botterell1,*, Annette C. Broderick1, Tamara S. Galloway2, Penelope K. Lindeque3, Ana Nuno1, Brendan J. Godley1,**

1Marine Turtle Research Group, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK
2Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter EX4 4QD, UK
3Marine Ecology and Biodiversity, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
*These authors contributed equally to this work
**Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Entanglement in anthropogenic debris poses a threat to marine wildlife. Although this is recognised as a cause of marine turtle mortality, there remain quantitative knowledge gaps on entanglement rates and population implications. We provide a global summary of this issue in this taxon using a mixed methods approach, including a literature review and expert opinions from conservation scientists and practitioners worldwide. The literature review yielded 23 reports of marine turtle entanglement in anthropogenic debris, which included records for 6 species, in all ocean basins. Our experts reported the occurrence of marine turtles found entangled across all species, life stages and ocean basins, with suggestions of particular vulnerability in pelagic juvenile life stages. Numbers of stranded turtles encountered by our 106 respondents were in the thousands per year, with 5.5% of turtles encountered entangled; 90.6% of these dead. Of our experts questioned, 84% consider that this issue could be causing population level effects in some areas. Lost or discarded fishing materials, known as ‘ghost gear’, contributed to the majority of reported entanglements with debris from land-based sources in the distinct minority. Surveyed experts rated entanglement a greater threat to marine turtles than oil pollution, climate change and direct exploitation but less of a threat than plastic ingestion and fisheries bycatch. The challenges, research needs and priority actions facing marine turtle entanglement are discussed as pathways to begin to resolve and further understand the issue. Collaboration among stakeholder groups such as strandings networks, the fisheries sector and the scientific community will facilitate the development of mitigating actions.


KEY WORDS: Conservation · Entanglement · Ghost fishing · Marine debris · Plastic pollution · Sea turtle · Strandings


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Cite this article as: Duncan EM, Botterell ZLR, Broderick AC, Galloway TS, Lindeque PK, Nuno A, Godley BJ (2017) A global review of marine turtle entanglement in anthropogenic debris: a baseline for further action. Endang Species Res 34:431-448. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00865

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