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ESR 5:267-278 (2008)  -  DOI:

TurtleWatch: a tool to aid in the bycatch reduction of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta in the Hawaii-based pelagic longline fishery

Evan A. Howell1,* , Donald R. Kobayashi1,2, Denise M. Parker1,3, George H. Balazs1, Jeffrey J. Polovina1

1Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2570 Dole Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 97822-2396, USA
2Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Broadway, New South Wales 2007, Australia
3Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, 1000 Pope Road, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-2396, USA

ABSTRACT: Operational longline fishery characteristics, bycatch information, and loggerhead turtle satellite tracks were all used in conjunction with remotely sensed sea surface temperature data to identify the environmental area where the majority of loggerhead turtle bycatch occurred in the Hawaii-based longline fishery during 1994 to 2006. In the first quarter of each calendar year from 1994 to 2006, the majority of shallow longline sets and associated loggerhead turtle bycatch were above 28°N, which corresponds to the area near the North Pacific Subtropical Frontal Zone. Based on the thermal ranges of bycatch, sets and the satellite-tagged turtles, it was recommended that shallow sets should only be deployed in waters south of the 18.5°C (~65.5°F) isotherm to decrease loggerhead turtle bycatch. This recommendation formed the basis for the TurtleWatch tool, a map providing up-to-date information about the thermal habitat of loggerhead sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean north of the Hawaiin Islands. TurtleWatch was released to fishers and managers in electronic and paper formats on December 26, 2006, to assist in decision making during the first quarter of 2007. Fishery information from 2007 was later compared with data for the years 2005 to 2006 to assess the response of the fishery to TurtleWatch. The observed fleet movement during the first quarter of 2007 was to the north of the 18.5°C (~65.5°F) isotherm (i.e. in the area recommended for avoidance by the TurtleWatch product) with increased effort and lower bycatch rates. We discuss possible reasons for this decrease in turtle bycatch north of the frontal zone together with future research directions which may lead to refinement of the TurtleWatch product.

KEY WORDS: Loggerhead turtles · Bycatch · Remote-sensing · Sea surface temperature · Longline fishery · Transition zone · Swordfish

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Cite this article as: Howell EA, Kobayashi DR, Parker DM, Balazs GH, Polovina aJJ (2008) TurtleWatch: a tool to aid in the bycatch reduction of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta in the Hawaii-based pelagic longline fishery. Endang Species Res 5:267-278.

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