Fishing Nets Cause Mass Turtle Annihilation in Guanacaste

September 1, 2006

Approximately 200 turtles were found dead in the Wildlife Refuge of Playa Ostional, a nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, and neighboring beaches last week, according to Rodrigo Morera, a biologist for the Integral Development Association of Ostional.

The turtles were apparently caught in fishing nets approximately 250 meters from the coast, which were pinned down to the ocean bottom and held up by buoys at the surface,Morera explained.

Trapped in the nets, the Olive Ridleys appeared to have suffocated on their way to shore, where their lifeless carcasses floated up and were found in heaps starting Aug. 22. Morera said the nets are no longer there, most likely because of media attention surrounding the turtles’ deaths.

Morera said the five million turtles that arrive at Ostional each year are constantly exposed to the threat of these nets, and it is not unusual to find 10 or 20 carcasses at the beach inside the refuge at any one time.

Apart from using these nets, fishermen in the area also perform pelagic long-lining – which uses lines with hundreds of hooks on which turtles often get caught – and bottom trawling, two practices that often result in the incidental capture of turtles, according to Morera.

This month, the environmental organization MarViva, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and the Coast Guard will begin a joint patrol of the Ostional area to prevent the incidental capture of turtles, according to MarViva spokeswoman Michelle Soto.

 

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