Distribution and relative abundance of sea turtles caught incidentally by the U.S. pelagic longline fleet in the western North Atlantic Ocean, 1992-1995
The distribution and abundance of threatened and endangered species of sea turtles in offshore waters are not well understood. Early oceanographic flights designed to record sea surface temperatures along the Atlantic continental shelf by the U.S. Coast Guard illustrated that aerial surveys for large pelagic fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles were possible (Deaver1). Aerial surveys have since proven a cost-effective method of obtaining observational data on sea turtles and have helped researchers understand basic distributional patterns (Hoffman and Fritts, 1982; Fritts et al., 1983; Schroeder and Thompson, 1987; Shoop and Kenney, 1992). Additional sources of pelagic sea turtle data are fishery observer and vessel logbook programs. The U.S. Atlantic pelagic longline fishery for tuna, Thunnus spp., and swordfish, Xiphias gladius, incidentally captures threatened and endangered sea turtles, which have either ingested baited hooks or become entangled or hooked externally, or both. This paper examines the seasonal distribution and relative abundance of these turtles caught incidentally by the U.S. Atlantic pelagic longline fleet from 1992 through 1995.