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ESR 2:63-69 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/esr002063

Traditional Caymanian fishery may impede local marine turtle population recovery

Catherine D. Bell1,2,*, Janice M. Blumenthal1,3, Timothy J. Austin3, Joni L. Solomon3, Gina Ebanks-Petrie3 , Annette C. Broderick1, Brendan J. Godley1

1Marine Turtle Research Group, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9E2, UK
2Cayman Turtle Farm (1983) Ltd., PO Box 812 WB, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, British West Indies
3Department of Environment, PO Box 486, George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

ABSTRACT: Many marine turtle populations are smaller than they once were, having been exploited at varying levels since prehistory. However, in areas where exploitation of adults has been substantially reduced or halted, increases in local nesting populations of several species have been shown. There is a paucity of published information on catch rates, methodologies, target species and size classes in small scale marine turtle fisheries. In the Cayman Islands a legal, highly regulated turtle fishery exists; laws regarding turtle protection regulate seasonality, capture location and method, size class, and levels of take via a licensing system. Licenses have only been issued to ‘traditional’ fishermen and will not be issued to other individuals in the future. Analysis of fishery data from legally captured animals (n = 27) shows that all turtles reported as captured were either adults or very large juveniles, and many were captured during periods when adults were likely to have been in the waters of the Cayman Islands to breed. We conclude that, given the critically small size of the local nesting populations, it is possible that this directed take, although at very low levels in regional terms, may impede the local population recovery sought through other conservation and management steps being taken in the Cayman Islands.

KEY WORDS: Cayman · Turtle · Fishery · Traditional · Conservation · Resource management

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