Eastern Pacific Turtle Program 2005-06 Final Report
The Eastern Pacific Regional Program to reduce sea turtle mortality in artisanal longline mahi-mahi and tuna fisheries of Latin America started after a round of workshops with longline fishers from Ecuador in the second quarter of 2004. The project initially began as a small test of the use of circle hooks, limited to a dozen vessels from the Ecuadorian fleet. The response of the fishing community, the fisheries agencies from the countries from the region, and international and national conservation organizations resulted in the development of a multi-year regional program, extending from Peru to Mexico. The first year of the program was supported by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC), the Under-secretariat of Fisheries Resources from Ecuador (SRP), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, USA), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), The Ocean Conservancy (TOC), and other organizations. The implementation strategy proposed was very well received, and other countries requested similar activities. In the second year, the program expanded its activities considerably in Ecuador, and started in several other Latin American countries from the Pacific coast including: Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador. The second year objectives were to increase sample size, and expand coverage to the whole eastern Pacific region, and to gather additional information and data towards identifying conclusive sea turtle bycatch mitigation strategies for Latin American artisanal longline mahi-mahi and tuna fisheries. The funding sources for the second year included those mentioned above, plus the welcomed addition of the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation from the Fishery Agency of Japan, which contributed resources and very valuable expertise. The program has finished its second field season (June 2005-2006), continuing with the tests of circle hooks, fishers workshops, and the data collection based on observer programs. The emphasis for this year was on the management of this expansion, and the development of unified and consistent data forms and databases. All these databases will have to be brought together to perform the statistical analyses needed to study the impacts of the circle hooks on hooking rates of target and non-target species, on the location of hooks in the hooked individuals, and on entanglement rates for all the region's longline fisheries. The final report for year two builds off the results from year one (Largacha et al, 2005). This report is part of an ongoing project that describes the activities, but presents only a limited number of analyses, since the bulk of them will be performed on the complete database, after a strict set of quality control procedures are implemented in all participating nations. The integration of results from the whole region will add to the robustness of the conclusions, and it will show the broad range of the program, that today constitutes one of the largest conservation and quite possibly the largest fishery mitigation program in the world.