Education to Reduce Adverse Interactions Between Commercial Fishing Operations and Sea Turtles in the Federated States of Micronesia
By-catch issues are increasingly presenting challenges to commercial tuna fishing operations and fisheries managers in the western and central Pacific Ocean. One such issue that has been identified in fisheries in other areas is that of adverse interaction between tuna fishing and several species of sea turtles, populations of which are considered endangered or threatened in many locations throughout the world.
During February 2003 NORMA will begin a project aimed at acquiring a broader understanding of the level of sea turtle interactions with commercial fisheries in FSM. The important dietary and cultural role of some species of sea turtles in significant segments of FSM society makes it all the more imperative that steps be taken to identify the amount and types of interaction between sea turtles and commercial fisheries. The project is also designed to increase the opportunities for survival by sea turtles that might be captured during the course of commercial tuna fishing operations in FSM.
This project is funded by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, under a grant provided to NORMA through the NMFS' Saltonstall-Kennedy (S-K) Program. The project will provide NORMA with the required background, training, and materials to:
expand the activities of the NORMA fisheries observer program by improving the capabilities of NORMA local staff and observers in recognizing, handling, and reporting interactions between sea turtles and commercial tuna fisheries in FSM;
familiarize commercial fishing operations in FSM with techniques of handling sea turtles, and provide appropriate instructions on how to address specific sea turtle interaction situations;
integrate the topic of sea turtle interactions with tuna fishing operations into the NORMA's ongoing management program.
NORMA hopes to collect baseline information on adverse interactions between tuna fishing operations and sea turtles in the FSM EEZ. This will be helpful in interpreting past observer data that has been collected on an occasional basis by NORMA and others, as well as assessing the impacts, if any, of current fishing operations on sea turtle populations.
NORMA will expand its existing fisheries observer program to include activities aimed at documenting and reducing adverse interactions between sea turtles and commercial tuna fisheries in FSM. This will be accomplished by providing appropriate training and materials to onboard fishery observers, as well as conducting workshops for observers and other NORMA staff. Particular emphasis will be placed on training observers to adequately demonstrate skills and techniques to fishing vessel crews that are aimed at minimizing adverse impacts of interactions with sea turtles.
The project will provide vessel operators and members of the fishing community with information on how to minimize adverse impacts on sea turtles during regular fishing operations. Vessel operators are encouraged to discuss this topic with their employees, and in the case of foreign operators with their home offices as well. The main message is that NORMA wants to work with all segments of the commercial fishing community in minimizing adverse interactions with sea turtles, for the benefit of the industry as well as the turtles, and looks forward to the industry's cooperation and assistance.