Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
Loggerhead sea turtles are currently listed as being threatened with extinction under the Habitat Directive, Barcelona Convention and Convention of Migratory Species. Their numbers are rapidly declining. Loggerhead sea turtles, like other sea turtle species, face many natural and human-induced threats. Scientists have determined that the capture in fishing gear and the loss of nesting habitat are major causes of the loggerhead’s decline.
Tens of thousands of loggerhead sea turtles are injured or killed annually in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico by destructive fishing gear , including trawls, gillnets and longlines. Loggerheads are also captured and killed by commercial fisheries using vertical lines, seines, dredges and various types of pots and traps.
In the Atlantic Ocean, the majority of nesting occurs along the southeastern United States, but loggerheads also nest in the eastern Atlantic and western South Atlantic. All of the nesting populations in the Atlantic, with trend data available, are experiencing significant declines. The largest decline was experienced by the South Florida nesting population, which declined 40 percent in the past decade.
It is long past time for the federal government to step up and take control of sea turtle takes (intentional or accidental human interactions), especially bycatch (the unintentional capture of turtles by fishing gear) and deaths in commercial fisheries. Failure of the fishery managers to act will immeasurably increase the risk of extinction of one of the ocean’s most ancient species.