An overview of loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) bycatch and technical mitigation measures in the Mediterranean Sea
This paper reviews the gear parameters responsible for loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) capture and mortality while taking into account the mitigation measures tested in the Mediterranean Sea. Incidental catch is considered as one of the major threats for turtle survival; however, the loggerhead bycatch estimated in different areas seems to be unrealistic, which highlights the need of a method for homogenising the estimates. Drifting longlines and bottom trawls have the greatest impact on Mediterranean turtle populations, respectively in pelagic and demersal phase, while passive nets (gillnets and trammel nets) seem to be responsible for the highest direct mortality, due to drowning. Most of the experiments available for the Mediterranean are focused on drifting longline. The longline parameters, hook shape and size, bait type, setting position and the reaction to sensory stimuli, strongly affect the sea turtle bycatch and mortality. Circle hooks have the potential to reduce turtle mortality only in certain fisheries and areas; larger hooks are less likely to be swallowed by turtles due to physical constraints of the mouth, reducing the mortality rate and the catch of juveniles; branchlines, once ingested, appear to be one of the major causes of sea turtle mortality; squid bait, which consistently catches more turtles than mackerel, and lightsticks, which strongly attract turtles, should be banned, at least in some areas and seasons. On the contrary only two bottom trawl studies are available from the Mediterranean. Turtle excluder devices have been tested with promising results in Turkey and Italy, even if the loss of large fish should be carefully investigated. For set nets no practical solutions are available at this time. The analysis allows the conclusion that technical parameters affecting turtle bycatch and mortality should only be studied one at a time, in order to avoid inconclusive results, studies on post-release mortality should be implemented and finally fishermen cooperation is paramount in reducing turtle bycatch and mortality.