All posts by lwarta

An Unexpected By-catch

Luke Warta

The damage to various fish species such as the King salmon due to bycatch is a well known issue, the Costa Rican long liner fleet however, has had  a rather unexpected bycatch.  A team from a Costa Rican university and a US nonprofit organization recently found that the second most caught species in the long liner fleet is a the olive ridley sea turtle.  Although 80% of the turtles survive the ordeal and are released, the long term effects on their health are unknown and the species is clearly suffering.

To make matters worse, the overall size of the fish caught by the fleet has decreased significantly over the years, sharks being hit the hardest.  The average adult shark caught is quite small with a significant proportion of juvenile sharks caught as well.   In addition, a particularly alarming number of juvenile blacktip sharks are caught near the  Osa Peninsula, indicating the presence of a breeding grounds.

The team concluded that while it is not too late to save these species, action must to be taken soon or we could face the collapse of even more species and perhaps the whole fishery.   They suggested closing the commercial fishery for five months each year and placing observers on the boats to better calculate the bycatch and ensure careful handling of sea turtles caught, also urging the Porta Rican government to invest more time and resources into research and management of this fishery.