Endangered Sea Turtles Face Death by a Thousand Hooks
Photo courtesy of Terry Mass
The critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are leaving California's relatively safe coast for their annual Pacific migration to nesting beaches—and they could find a veritable death trap of 5 million new longline hooks waiting for them when they return. This is the plight detailed in a new report, ominously titled "Death by a Thousand Hooks," which was released last week. The surplus in new hooks would come from a "Deadly Trio"—three new proposed swordfish fisheries slated for approval in the Pacific ocean. This could spell disaster for the migrating sea turtle population that migrates between Hawaii and California every year. But the Turtle Island Restoration group is determined to avert the catastrophe. "We must halt the deadly sweep of longline fishing hooks across the ocean," said Teri Shore, TIRN's Program Director. "Otherwise the swordfish we eat will be tainted with the blood of sea turtles."
Sea Turtles and the Deadly TrioThe fisheries combined would add a whopping 5 million long hooks (different from the less-deadly circle hook variation) to the open ocean, where loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles could easily fall prey to the traps intended for swordfish. The turtles' death rates could rise 3-6 times, according to the report. Not pleasant numbers for two of the most cherished and critically imperiled sea creatures on the planet. The report goes so far as to say the turtles could be headed for extinction if the Deadly Trio is approved.
Sea turtles wouldn't be the only victims of the hooks, either—endangered black-footed albatross, blue sharks, dolphins, whales and tuna could all easily fall prey to the gauntlet as well.
What's perhaps most startling about the whole ordeal is that 2 out of the three fisheries have already been shut down in the past for threatening endangered species. And the third would open 200 miles off the California coast—including the Leatherback Conservation Area designed specifically to provide safe haven to the turtles in the first place.
Thousands of sea turtles have already died needlessly this year alone—the last thing they need is another potentially fatal obstacle thrown up in their path.
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