Protecting turtles from the threat of by-catch
For those not familiar with by-catch, this term refers to the unwanted fish and other marine creatures caught during commercial fishing when they are searching for a different species. Fishing gear has become the biggest threat to sea turtles that live in every corner of the world. Hundreds of turtles are accidentally caught by shrimp trawl nets, gillnets, and on long line hooks every single year. This often results in a slow and painful death. Endangered turtle species such as green turtles, loggerheads and leatherbacks are more vulnerable to these issues. As a result, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has taken several measures in order to protect turtles from the threat associated with by-catch.
WWF is following two major steps in order to provide protection for the turtles against the threat of by-catch. They have started spending a considerable amount of money to support projects that can give life to innovative fishing gear. In addition, they are conducting programs in order to create awareness among people through education. WWF has recently introduced a unique type of a hook, called a circle hook, to the fisheries in Pacific. This hook could potentially minimize the number of turtle deaths by 90%. Turtles are less likely to swallow these hooks that come with a circular shape. In contrast to the traditional J-shaped hooks, which when swallowed, can cause internal bleeding and suffocation of the turtles.
The concept of circular hooks quickly became popular in many parts of the world. For example, the Ecuadorian government eliminated the taxes that were imposed on importing circular hooks back in 2012. They made this decision with the objective of saving turtles in the Ecuadorian sea. It has also been identified that the cost associated with producing circular hooks is much higher than that of J-shaped hooks which has created an impact on the mass production of circular hooks. If the production of these hooks can receive government support, the manufacturers will not find it as costly to mass produce them and distribute among fishermen. The cost spent on these sponsorships can be considered an excellent investment towards the future and towards the protection of the lives of turtles.
Apart from supporting the production of innovative fishing gear, WWF is engaged in testing different types of fishing bait, which can also reduce turtle by-catch. They have also conducted special programs to remove the traditional J-shaped hooks which get trapped inside the turtles’ mouths. In addition, they continue to offer training programs in order to create awareness among communities. These training programs focus on how to release the captured turtles back to the wild in the safest possible way. All these programs provide maximum protection to the turtles from the threat of by-catch.
Turtle protection in Bali
All turtle species are protected by law in Indonesia. Unfortunately even though the turtle trade (whether dead or alive) is illegal, it is still happening to some degree. Good news is that there are a couple of turtle conservation centers in Bali and on surrounding islands that help protect these animals. It is also thanks to these efforts and initiatives that you can encounter sea turtles regularly when diving in Padangbai.