Validating an ecological model with fisheries management applications: the relationship between loggerhead by-catch and distance to the coast
On the one hand, a recent study on sea turtle by-catch during surface longline fishing targeting swordfish in the western Mediterranean Sea showed that sea turtle by-catch is independent of fishing effort and other technological factors. When the distance to the coast increases, there is a higher probability of catching a loggerhead turtle. The authors proposed to avoid fisheries further than 35 nautical miles (approximately 65 km) from the coast. However, the proposed 35 nautical miles limit could be useful where the continental shelf is narrow, as in the Balearic Sea, and useless where it widens. On the other hand, ecological model validation is considered essential for management application. The objective of the present paper is to validate the new fisheries loggerhead by-catch model in different areas outside the Balearic Sea with wider continental shelves, aimed at maintaining sustainable fishing activity compatible with the conservation of the loggerhead populations. Our present results validate the previous model, and stress the importance of the eco-geographical variable distance to the coast in understanding the loggerhead by-catch (or incidental capture) per unit effort for the longline fisheries targeting swordfish.