An update on the assessment of sea turtle bycatch in tuna gillnet fisheries of Pakistan (Arabian Sea)
Gillnets are commonly used to capture tuna in the continental shelf and oceanic waters off Pakistan. The tuna gillnet fleet consists of about 500 vessels that operate in the offshore waters of Pakistan and beyond its EEZ. Limited information was previously available on the incidence of sea turtle bycatch in the tuna gillnet fishery in this region. In order to assess the magnitude of sea turtle bycatch off Pakistan, four skippers were trained by WWF as observers on four tuna gillnet vessels to document sea turtle bycatch over 30 consecutive months from January 2013 to June 2015. Over the course of the sampling, 600 sea turtle bycatch events were recorded at a rate of 8.44 per km2 of net over the study duration. Observed mortality (i.e. dead turtles upon hauling) accounted for 10% of the total caught turtles in the four vessels in the reported period. 90% of the turtles were released alive in apparent good condition. The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) accounted for 68.8% of captures (n = 178), followed by the green turtle (Chelonia mydas, 29.6%, n = 178),and the hawksbill turtle ( Eretmochelysimbricata, 1.5%, n = 9).