ARTISANAL FISHING AND SEA TURTLES
Sea turtles have been a part of artisanal fishers' lives for several generations, both economically and culturally.
Over the years, fishers across Mexico have re-explored and re-shaped their relationship with sea turtles, actively increasing their collaboration with organizations that carry out sea turtle conservation activities. These shifting perspectives have positively impacted sea turtles when there is a lot of fishing activity in areas that are important for sea turtles to feed or breed.
Although bycatch is an ongoing concern, fishers' efforts and willingness to work with researchers, volunteers, and N.G.O.s that work for sea turtle population recovery have proven pivotal. Fishers' knowledge of the sea, fishing practices, and skills have facilitated many conservation activities such as sea turtle monitoring, tagging, rescue, and recovery.
COLLABORATING WITH ARTISANAL FISHERS FOR A HEALTHIER SEA TURTLE POPULATION
Artisanal fisheries and fishing communities are tightly linked to the health of marine ecosystems and resources, making them particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation and resource depletion. However, because artisanal fishing operates at very narrow profit margins, sustainable fishing practices must balance resource conservation goals with the assurance of stable livelihoods for fishers and their communities.
This is why we focus on three approaches to reduce the bycatch of sea turtles and develop the most effective and feasible measures in several coastal communities in Pacific Mexico.
1. REDUCE FISHING PRESSURE
Aim to reduce the overall fishing pressure, particularly on fishing gears most dangerous for bycatch species, by:
- Supporting fishers switching to alternative fishing gears that are less dangerous for sea turtles but still allow fishers to maintain the amount and value of their desired catch.
- Developing alternative revenue streams that allow fishers to be more selective about when and what they fish and under which conditions.
2. REDUCE THE FREQUENCY OF BYCATCH INTERACTIONS
Through modifications in how, where, and when fishers use their fishing gears, many interactions with sea turtles can be avoided, thus reducing the overall frequency of bycatch events.
To achieve this, we work with fishing communities to promote sustainable fishing practices, such as permanently adopting bycatch reduction technologies that reduce interactions with sea turtles.
These technologies are gear modifications and techniques being developed, tested, and implemented as gear modification and methods identified during the community and fisherfolk experience exchanges.
3. REDUCE THE SEVERITY OF BYCATCH INTERACTIONS
For bycatch interactions that cannot be avoided, collaborative workshops and training build capacity among fishers to:
- Safely handle turtles accidentally captured in their gear.
- Assist and monitor their recovery.
- Release them when appropriate.
These actions reduce the severity of bycatch interactions, thus improving sea turtle survival.
OUR ULTIMATE GOALS WHEN COLLABORATING WITH SMALL-SCALE FISHERIES ARE:
- Promote sustainable fishing practices that will support coastal communities.
- Support alternative livelihood opportunities to fishing.
- Promote healthier sea turtle populations throughout Pacific Mexico.