Scientists have recorded sea turtles stuck on a beach in California nearly 40 years ago. At that time, I noticed that leatherback turtles (giant sea turtles dating back to the dinosaur era) were launched on the shore. It was strange because the closest known population of the giant was thousands of miles away in Latin American waters.
Their mysterious existence has led researchers to amazing discoveries. A subset of leather bags that hatch on the beaches of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have traveled 7,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the cold waters off the west coast of the United States, eating jellyfish and returning. The epic journey surprised scientists.
“Some birds go farther, but they’re flying. There’s a whale shark that might swim a little longer, but it doesn’t have to float in the air. This animal is actually pushing water across the Pacific Ocean,” he said. Scott Benson, an ecologist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fishery services in Monterey, said. He has been studying turtles for decades. “It’s just a magnificent animal.”
But now, as scientists are beginning to fully understand the amazing Odyssey, turtles are disappearing — and fast.
In less than 30 years, the number of leather bags in the western Pacific in the foraging population off California plummeted by 80%, and more recently. Survey Benson’s co-authorship shows a 5.6% decrease annually. This is similar to the decline recorded at nesting beaches thousands of miles away. According to Benson, about 1,400 adult females are counted from tens of thousands of turtles decades ago on nesting beaches in the western Pacific, with only 50 foraging off California. ..
If nothing changes, leatherback turtles (a creature that weighs half the weight of a compact car and has four-foot flippers) could disappear from the west coast of the United States within 30 years, according to scientists. The discriminatory international fishery has brought an end. , Nesting sites and climate change decimation.
Jim Harvey, director of the Moss Landing Marine Research Institute at San Jose State University and co-author of the study, said: “When the story was over, we started watching the story.”
Daniel Pauly, a fisheries professor at the University of British Columbia and an international expert on reducing the impact of commercial fisheries on marine ecosystems, provides important but catastrophic new population information. However, he said it would not be a precursor to leather bags.
“If you find a decrease in one place, it may have several causes, but if you find an estimate of the same decrease in two places, it indicates something much more serious.” Pauly, who was not involved in the study, said. “They have a really big problem.”
NOAA is Aggressive initiative To save them in 2015, this month we will announce an updated action plan to promote international cooperation to reduce the number of eggs loaded on the beach and the number of Pacific leather bags entwined in commercial fishing gear. ..
“Now we have the opportunity to stop the decline, but we need to seize it immediately, which requires international efforts by all the countries with which this animal interacts,” Benson said. .. “If nothing is done to reverse this course, this population will be essentially extinct in the Pacific Ocean.”
Leatherback turtles may have been foraging off the west coast of the United States for thousands of years. Six different leatherback turtle populations are scattered around the world, but none have completed such a long transition. 60% of leatherback turtles that hatch in the western Pacific travel to California. Scientists don’t know why or not. Some go further north, off the coast of Oregon and Washington.
While all leatherback turtles in the world are under pressure, a subset of the Pacific Ocean that travels for months faces unique threats that are particularly difficult for conservationists to counter. Leatherbacks in the East Pacific, which nest in Mexico and Costa Rica, are also experiencing a dramatic decline in population due to the sharp decline in nesting beaches.
Underwater, commercial fishing vessels track swordfish in international no-man’s land. The strict US fishing laws do not apply in this country. Fishing nets and long lines for swordfish can hurt or kill marlin. They must navigate fishing grounds in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and other countries to reach the west coast of the United States.
On land, leatherback turtle eggs on nesting beaches in the western Pacific are frequently wiped out by wildlife and humans. Wild animals and humans collect and eat and sell food. Sand mining and development on private beaches has also invaded leatherback turtle nests.
In the United States, long lines of swordfish fishing are banned for 20 years from mid-August to mid-November to protect the 186,000 square miles (481,787 square kilometers) of giant turtles off the west coast. Most recently, California phased out the state’s only small drift gillnet fishery by 2024, and the long Hawaiian and California swordfish fleets could accidentally catch more than 16 leatherback turtles during the season. Must be closed.
Last year, President Donald Trump vetoed a bill co-sponsored by California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. She reintroduced it in February.
These measures have been very successful in reducing harm to Pacific leatherback turtles on the west coast of the United States and off the coast of Hawaii. Between 1990 and 2000, 23 leatherback turtles were entangled and killed off the west coast. According to NOAA Fisheries, there was a zero between 2014 and 2018.
Damian Schiff, a lawyer sued on behalf of fishermen affected by the shrinking swordfish industry, said environmentalists pursued further restrictions on US fisheries when other foreign fisheries were a problem. He said he would continue to do so.
“All swordfish that we didn’t catch in California come from overseas fisheries that have a low environmental rating,” he said. “I don’t think you can disagree with that fact.”
Today, the global population of leatherback turtles is plummeting, putting pressure on them to replicate these successes outside the United States and promote cooperation from international fisheries that compete directly with U.S. vessels in remote Pacific waters. I am.
Some ideas are to harvest US-imported leatherback turtles using the same turtle protection devices needed by the US fleet, or to include non-mammal sea creatures. Includes demanding expansion of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, said Todd Steiner’s executive director, the Turtle Island Restoration Network, which promotes leatherback turtle conservation around the world.
“We are one of the largest fish markets in the world, so if you have your own fishery that needs to meet certain requirements, you can ask for the same if you want to sell it to another country,” he said. Said. “But when is it too late? We have won several battles but lost the war.”
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