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Conservation group finds 70 dead sea turtles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast

November 5, 2013

Members of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (Widecast) last Saturday discovered at least 70 dead green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) near the Murciélago archipelago, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, the conservation group reported.

Widecast member Aníbal Lara found the first group of dead turtles off the coast of Santa Elena, Widecast Costa Rica Director Didiher Chacón told The Tico Times. Several of the turtles were attached to longline hooks, nylon strings and rope.

“It is not difficult to conclude that they were caught by longline fishing devices,” he said. “Last week, we had reports of Mahi Mahi in the area, and behind them usually comes the longline fishing fleet.” 

On Tuesday, Widecast members searching the area found two turtles that were still alive. They were sent to the National University Veterinary Faculty in an attempt to save their lives. Some of the dead turtles also were sent to determine the official causes of death.

In January this year, 280 dead sea turtles were discovered in the Gulf Dulce, in the southern Pacific area of Costa Rica. At the time, veterinarians discovered inflammation and damage to their respiratory systems, leading them to determine the turtles had drowned after being snared in nylon fishing lines, which use several hooks and live bait.

Chacón said the most recent discovery coincided with the launch of a Widecast campaign to reduce bycatch in commercial fishing.

The campaign, called “Yes to sustainable fishing,” was launched on Monday night and aims to inform the public about several turtle deaths in Costa Rica’s Pacific Ocean due to bycatch.

In addition to providing data, the campaign’s main objective is to collect signatures calling for technical, administrative, legal and socio-economic measures to ensure sustainable fishing practices in the country.

According to Widecast, up to 30,000 sea turtles are snared each year as bycatch due to fishing practices that are not selective.

Green sea turtles are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

“With this campaign, we intend to ask the government to regulate longline fishing, which includes eliminating the use of live bait and prohibiting that type of fishing in areas with large sea turtle populations,” an announcement about the campaign said.

The petition also calls for fines for those who leave fishing lines out at sea, and increased fines for snaring sea turtles as bycatch.

To support and sign the petition, visit: www.sialapescasostenible.com.

Read an update to this story here.

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