2017 Improving the Understanding of Sea Turtle Entanglement in Vertical Lines

Photo taken under ESA Permit #16556

Project Title: 2017 Improving the Understanding of Sea Turtle Entanglement in Vertical Lines

Year: 2017

Principle Investigators: Samir Patel, Liese Siemann

Client: NOAA/NMFS Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program

The goal of this project is to investigate sea turtle entanglement in vertical lines of fishing gear within the nearshore waters adjacent to Cape Cod, MA. Our focal areas have a known seasonal high density of leatherback, loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley turtles overlapping with high densities of vertical lines associated with fixed gear fisheries. Between 2002 and 2014, 260 leatherbacks were reported entangled from Maine to Virginia, with 252 entangled in vertical lines. To identify the potential for entanglement of sea turtles within Cape Cod nearshore waters and to gain the fishermen’s perspective on this issue, we will: conduct flights during the peak month of August to investigate leatherback presence; deploy temporary data loggers via suction cup on 10 leatherbacks to track location and dive behavior and provide video footage; and opportunistically film turtles with an ROV. We also plan to set up camera traps on at least 20 vertical lines within the region to document the occurrence, on a per line basis, of animals that could potentially become entangled and the orientation of the vertical line associated with tide and current. To improve bycatch estimates and gain industry knowledge regarding potential engineering solutions, we plan to conduct anonymous surveys of pot fishermen through questionnaires administered by the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.