September 10, 2009

AP: Report- Loggerhead Turtles at Risk of Extinction

WASHINGTON — It's a scene that scientists say is all too common: A commercial fishing boat pulls in a net full of shrimp or tuna and finds a loggerhead sea turtle mixed in with the catch.

Biologists like Matthew Godfrey say one or two such takings can happen every day among fishing fleets off the Southeast coast. Those numbers can add up to thousands annually for a turtle species that has traveled the oceans for 200 million years but now faces a growing array of threats.

Godfrey is among the authors of the latest federal report on loggerheads that says most groups of the ancient reptile are at risk of extinction — in large part due to increased commercial fishing.

The study, released last month, predicted broad population declines across the globe in the coming years, including in a nesting area along the southeastern United States that is one of the world's largest.

"Unfortunately, a lot of times the target fish habitat and the turtle habitat overlap," said Godfrey, of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "The turtles are air breathers, so they need to get to the surface, but if they're tangled up in the net, they can't get to the surface, and they essentially drown."

Loggerheads have been listed as a threatened species since 1978...

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NOAA Photo: Turtle escaping from net equipped with a TED (Turtle Excluder Device)
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