Using sea turtles’ vocalization to reduce their bycatch?

Chevallier D, Maucourt L, Charrier I, et al (2024) Using sea turtles’ vocalization to reduce their bycatch? Research Square preprint:

Incidental capture of non-target species poses a pervasive threat to many marine species, with sometimes devastating consequences for both fisheries and conservation efforts. Because of the well-known importance of vocalizations in cetaceans, acoustic deterrents have been extensively used for these species. In contrast, acoustic communication for sea turtles has been considered negligible, and this question has been largely unexplored. Addressing this challenge therefore requires a comprehensive understanding of sea turtles’ responses to sensory signals. In this study, we scrutinized the avenue of auditory cues, specifically the natural sounds produced by green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Martinique, as a potential tool to reduce bycatch. We recorded 10 sounds produced by green turtles and identified those that appear to correspond to alerts, flight or social contact between individuals. Subsequently, these turtle sounds - as well synthetic and natural (earthquake) sounds - were presented to turtles in known foraging areas to assess the behavioral response of green turtles to these sounds. Our data highlighted that the playback of sounds produced by sea turtles was associated with alert or increased the vigilance of individuals. This therefore suggests novel opportunities for using sea turtle sounds to deter them from fishing gear or other potentially harmful areas, and highlights the potential of our research to improve sea turtles populations’ conservation.