Trading information for conservation: a novel use of radio broadcasting to reduce sea turtle bycatch
Bycatch of non-target animals in small-scale fisheries poses a major threat to seabirds and marine mammals and turtles. This is also a problem for small-scale fisheries in Peru because of the magnitude of these fisheries and the important marine biodiversity in Peruvian waters. Here we describe how we implemented a novel approach to mitigate bycatch impacts on marine turtles in Peru. We used high-frequency (HF) two-way radio communication to exchange information with fishers. We sought data that would afford insights into fishing patterns and levels of turtle bycatch so that we could identify areas of high-density bycatch in real time and warn other fishers. In return we provided oceanographic and atmospheric information useful for the fishers. Radio communication also served as a platform to promote the use of safe handling and release techniques for incidentally caught animals. During the 24 months of the programme we communicated with over 200 vessels and with 200–1,400 fishers, who used primarily longlines, gillnets, jiggers, purse seiners and trawlers. Our findings suggest that HF radio communication is a useful tool (low cost and widely used by fishers, with extensive spatial coverage), helps build links with fishers that potentially reduces fishery impacts on marine turtles, and can also provide information on poorly documented fisheries and the relevant bycatch data associated with small-scale fishing practices.