Effect of bait on sea turtle bycatch rates in pelagic longlines: An overview
Pelagic longline fishing has been identified as a significant threat to endangered sea turtle populations. Reducing sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries, in concert with activities to reduce other anthropogenic mortality sources, may halt and reverse population declines. Here, we examine the effect of bait manipulation as a simple mitigation method that could reduce sea turtle interactions with longline fishing gear. We analyzed laboratory experiments and field trials conducted in the Mediterranean, the northeast Distant Area in the Atlantic and the Western North Pacific. Studies showed that turtles are more likely to feed on squid than on mackerel when both are used simultaneously as bait. The stingray, Dasyatis pastinaca, used as bait, was more effective than mackerel; this ray was vulnerable and stimulated much thought about other species to use as alternative bait. Effective in laboratory conditions with captive turtles, dyed and artificial bait did not seemed to be effective in reducing turtle bycatch in field conditions. Optimal mitigation measure must reduce incidence of hooking of threatened sea turtles to acceptable levels and also offer an economic advantage to fisheries. Studies concerning the effect of bait modification to reduce turtle bycatch highlight the importance of an integrated approach towards sensory deterrents, as both visual and chemical cues are likely to attract sea turtles to longline gear. Further research on the development of sensory-based deterrents can contribute to reduced sea turtle bait interactions and maintain catch rates of target species.