Interactions of loggerhead turtle with bottom longline fishery in the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia
In the Gulf of Gabès (Tunisia), a fleet of bottom longliners operates in summer and in the beginning of autumn targeting groupers. This fleet interacts with loggerhead turtles. During twenty trips in which 48,020 hooks were deployed, a total of 16 loggerheads were captured, most of them were juveniles, and direct mortality was estimated to be 43.75%. During the fishing operation, the hauling of the gear started one to three hours after and sometimes occurred immediately after setting. Results obtained show that the soak time did not affect the capture of turtles and target species, whereas it influenced the mortality rate of turtles. Bottom longline should be studied more in depth throughout the Mediterranean Sea, as well as parameters related to the interaction with sea turtles. However, mitigation measures to reduce turtle by-catch are urgently needed. In this way, we propose: (i) reducing the fishing soak time; (ii) experimenting with gear modification such as the use of circle hooks; and (iii) conducting an awareness campaign aimed at fishermen to show them how to deal with turtle by-catch.