Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-jb2ch Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-23T07:10:25.725Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Incidental catch of sea turtles by the Brazilian pelagic longline fishery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 June 2008

Gilberto Sales*
Centro TAMAR-ICMBio, Caixa Postal 2219, Rio Vermelho, 40223-970 Salvador BA, Brazil
Bruno B. Giffoni
Fundação Pró-Tamar, Rua Antônio Atanásio 273, Itaguá, 11680-000 Ubatuba, SP, Brazil
Paulo C.R. Barata
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rua Leopoldo Bulhões 1480-8A, 21041-210 Rio de Janeiro RJ, Brazil
Correspondence should be addressed to: Gilberto SalesCentro TAMAR-ICMBioCaixa Postal 2219 Rio Vermelho 40223-970 Salvador BABrazil email:


This paper presents data on the incidental catch of sea turtles in both the Brazilian exclusive economic zone and adjacent international waters (both areas are located mainly in the south-western Atlantic) by Brazilian commercial pelagic longliners targeting swordfish, tuna and sharks. Data were obtained by on-board observers for 311 trips carried out in 2001–2005, totalling 7385 sets and 11,348,069 hooks. A total of 1386 sea turtles were incidentally captured in the five years (some of them were considered dead at capture): 789 loggerheads (Caretta caretta), 341 leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea), 45 green turtles (Chelonia mydas), 81 olive ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) and 130 of unknown species. Taking into account the distribution of the fishing effort in the study area and the incidental catch of sea turtles, four regions were highlighted for the analyses: Zone 1 is located off the northern Brazilian coast; Zone 2 is located off the central Brazilian coast; Zone 3 is the region off the southern Brazilian coast; and Zone 4, located in the open sea almost totally within international waters, is the region around a chain of undersea mountains known as the Rio Grande Rise (Elevação do Rio Grande). There is no information on the origin (nesting areas) of the captured olive ridleys, but there is some evidence, obtained through genetic and demographic analyses, that loggerheads, leatherbacks and green turtles inhabiting the open ocean around Brazil originate from nesting areas in several countries. Together with the fact that the south-western Atlantic is fished by longliners again from several countries, this places the conservation of sea turtles in that part of the ocean in an international context. Some conservation actions carried out by Brazil concerning the interaction between pelagic longlines and sea turtles in the study area are described.

Research Article
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Achaval, F., Marin, Y.H. and Barea, L.C. (2000) Captura incidental de tortugas con palangre pelágico oceánico en el Atlántico sudoccidental. In Arena, G. and Rey, M. (eds) Captura de grandes peces pelágicos (pez espada y atunes) en el Atlántico Sudoccidental, y su interacción con otras poblaciones, Montevideo, Uruguay: Instituto Nacional de Pesca/Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, pp. 8388.Google Scholar
Aguilar, R., Mas, J. and Pastor, X. (1995) Impact of Spanish swordfish longline fisheries on the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta population in the western Mediterranean. In Richardson, J.I. and Richardson, T.H. (eds.) Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Workshop on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC 361, 16.Google Scholar
Amorim, A.F., Arfelli, C.A. and Bacilieri, S. (2002) Shark data from Santos longliners fishery off Southern Brazil (1971–2000). Collective Volume of Scientific Papers, ICCAT 54, 13411348.Google Scholar
Ariz, J., Pallarés, P., Santana, J.C. and de Molina, A.D. (2002) Explotación de los bancos de túnidos tropicales asociados a montes submarinos, en el Océano Atlantico, por la flota de cerco española. Collective Volume of Scientific Papers, ICCAT 54, 96106.Google Scholar
Balazs, G.H. (1999) Factors to consider in the tagging of sea turtles. In Eckert, K.L. et al. (eds) Research and management techniques for the conservation of sea turtles. IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group publication, no. 4, pp. 101109.Google Scholar
Balazs, G.H. and Pooley, S.G. (eds) (1994) Research plan to assess marine turtle hooking mortality: results of an expert workshop held in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 16–18, 1993. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SWFSC-201.Google Scholar
Barata, P.C.R., Gallo, B.M.G., dos Santos, S., Azevedo, V.G. and Kotas, J.E. (1998) Captura acidental da tartaruga marinha Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) na pesca de espinhel de superfície na ZEE brasileira e em águas internacionais. In Resumos Expandidos da XI Semana Nacional de Oceanografia, Rio Grande, RS, outubro de 1998, Pelotas, RS, Brasil: Editora Universitária-UFPel, pp. 579581.Google Scholar
Barata, P.C.R., Lima, E.H.S.M., Borges-Martins, M., Scalfoni, J.T., Bellini, C. and Siciliano, S. (2004) Records of the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) on the Brazilian coast, 1969–2001. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK 84, 12331240.Google Scholar
Billes, A., Fretey, J., Verhage, B., Huijbregts, B., Giffoni, B., Prosdocimi, L., Albareda, D.A., Georges, J.Y. and Tiwari, M. (2005) First evidence of leatherback movement from Africa to South America. Marine Turtle Newsletter 111, 1314.Google Scholar
Bjorndal, K.A., Wetherall, J.A., Bolten, A.B. and Mortimer, J.A. (1999) Twenty-six years of green turtle nesting at Tortuguero, Costa Rica: an encouraging trend. Conservation Biology 13, 126134.Google Scholar
Bolten, A.B. (1999) Techniques for measuring sea turtles. In Eckert, K.L. et al. (eds) Research and management techniques for the conservation of sea turtles. IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group publication, No. 4, pp. 110114.Google Scholar
Carranza, A., Domingo, A. and Estrades, A. (2006) Pelagic longlines: a threat to sea turtles in the Equatorial Eastern Atlantic. Biological Conservation 131, 5257.Google Scholar
Coluchi, R., Giffoni, B.B., Sales, G., Consulim, C.E.N., Fiedler, F.N., Leite, N.O.L. Jr. and Peppes, F. (2005) Caracterização das pescarias com espinhel pelágico que interagem com tartarugas marinhas no Brasil. In Livro de Resumos, II Jornada de Conservação e Pesquisa de Tartarugas Marinhas no Atlântico Sul Ocidental, 14–15 de Novembro de 2005, Praia do Cassino, Rio Grande, Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil. Rio Grande, RS, Brasil: NEMA, pp. 8083.Google Scholar
Convención Interamericana para la Protección y Conservación de las Tortugas Marinas (2006) Tercera conferencia de las partes contratantes—COP3CIT Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México, informe final. [; accessed 24 August 2007]Google Scholar
Crouse, D.T., Crowder, L.B. and Caswell, H. (1987) A stage-based population model for loggerhead sea turtles and implications for conservation. Ecology 68, 14121423.Google Scholar
Crowder, L. (2000) Leatherback's survival will depend on an international effort. Nature 405, 881.Google Scholar
da Silva, A.C.C.D., de Castilhos, J.C., Lopez, G.G. and Barata, P.C.R. (2007) Nesting biology and conservation of the olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) in Brazil, 1991/1992 to 2002/2003. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK 87, 10471056.Google Scholar
Dodd, C.K. Jr. (1988) Synopsis of the biological data on the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta (Linnaeus 1758). Biological Report, No. 88. Washington, DC, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.Google Scholar
Domingo, A., Sales, G., Giffoni, B., Miller, P., Laporta, M. and Maurutto, G. (2006) Captura incidental de tortugas marinas con palangre pelagico en el Atlantico Sur por las flotas de Brasil y Uruguay. Collective Volume of Scientific Papers, ICCAT 59, 9921002.Google Scholar
Eckert, S.A. (1994) Evaluating the post-release mortality of sea turtles incidentally caught in pelagic longline fisheries. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SWFSC 201, 106110.Google Scholar
Eckert, S.A. (2002) Distribution of juvenile leatherback sea turtle Dermochelys coriacea sightings. Marine Ecology Progress Series 230, 289293.Google Scholar
Fallabrino, A., Estrades, A., López-Mendilaharsu, M., Laporta, M., Prosdocimi, L., Sales, G. and Drews, C. (2004) First meeting on research and conservation of sea turtles in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean (ASO). Marine Turtle Newsletter 104, 19.Google Scholar
FAO (2005) Report of the technical consultation on sea turtles conservation and fisheries, Bangkok, Thailand, 29 November–2 December 2004. FAO Fisheries Report, No. 765. Rome, Italy: FAO.Google Scholar
Ferreira, R.L., Martins, H.R., da Silva, A.A. and Bolten, A.B. (2001) Impact of swordfish fisheries on sea turtles in the Azores. Arquipélago 18A, 7579.Google Scholar
Ferreira, R.L., Santos, M.R., Martins, H.R., Bolten, A.B., Isidro, E., Giga, A. and Bjorndal, K.A. (2003) Accidental captures of loggerhead sea turtles by the Azores longline fishery in relation to target species and gear retrieving time. In Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (comp. J.A. Seminoff). NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC 503, 261262.Google Scholar
Gerosa, G. and Casale, P. (1999) Interaction of marine turtles with fisheries in the Mediterranean. Tunis, Tunisia: UNEP, Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA).Google Scholar
Gilman, E., Zollett, E., Beverly, S., Nakano, H., Davis, K., Shiode, D., Dalzell, P. and Kinan, I. (2006) Reducing sea turtle by-catch in pelagic longline fisheries. Fish and Fisheries 7, 223.Google Scholar
Hall, M.A., Alverson, D.L. and Metuzals, K.I. (2000) By-catch: problems and solutions. Marine Pollution Bulletin 41, 204219.Google Scholar
Hazin, F.H.V., Zagaglia, J.R., Broadhurst, M.K., Travassos, P.E.P. and Bezerra, T.R.Q. (1998) Review of a small-scale pelagic longline fishery off northeastern Brazil. Marine Fisheries Review 60, 18.Google Scholar
Hazin, F.H.V., Hazin, H.G. and Travassos, P. (2002) Influence of the type of longline on the catch rate and size composition of swordfish, Xiphias gladius (Linnaeus, 1758), in the Southwestern Equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Collective Volume of Scientific Papers, ICCAT 54, 15551559.Google Scholar
Hirth, H.F. (1997) Synopsis of the biological data on the green turtle Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus 1758). Biological Report, No. 97(1). Washington, DC, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.Google Scholar
Hughes, G.R., Luschi, P., Mencacci, R. and Papi, F. (1998) The 7000 km oceanic journey of a leatherback turtle tracked by satellite. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 229, 209217.Google Scholar
ICCAT (2006) Compendium: management recommendations and resolutions adopted by ICCAT for the conservation of Atlantic tunas and tuna-like species. Document PLE-012/2006. Madrid, Spain: ICCAT. [; accessed 24 August 2007]Google Scholar
IUCN (2007) 2007 IUCN red list of threatened species. [; accessed 27 September 2007].Google Scholar
Kotas, J.E., dos Santos, S., de Azevedo, V.G., Gallo, B.M.G. and Barata, P.C.R. (2004) Incidental capture of loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles by the pelagic longline fishery off southern Brazil. Fishery Bulletin 102, 393399.Google Scholar
Lewison, R.L., Freeman, S.A. and Crowder, L.B. (2004) Quantifying the effects of fisheries on threatened species: the impact of pelagic longlines on loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. Ecology Letters 7, 221231.Google Scholar
Lewison, R.L. and Crowder, L.B. (2007) Putting longline bycatch of sea turtles into perspective. Conservation Biology 21, 7986.Google Scholar
Lima, E.H.S.M., Lagueux, C.L., Barata, P.C.R. and Marcovaldi, M.A. (2003) Second record of a green turtle (Chelonia mydas) tagged in Brazil and captured in Nicaragua. Marine Turtle Newsletter 101, 27.Google Scholar
López-Jurado, L.F., Varo-Cruz, N. and López-Suárez, P. (2003) Incidental capture of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) on Boa Vista (Cape Verde Islands). Marine Turtle Newsletter 101, 1416.Google Scholar
Marcovaldi, M.A. and dei Marcovaldi, G.G. (1999) Marine turtles of Brazil: the history and structure of Projeto TAMAR–IBAMA. Biological Conservation 91, 3541.Google Scholar
Marcovaldi, M.A., Thomé, J.C., Sales, G., Coelho, A.C., Gallo, B. and Bellini, C. (2002) Brazilian plan for reduction of incidental sea turtle capture in fisheries. Marine Turtle Newsletter 96, 2425.Google Scholar
Minami, M. (2000) Using ArcMap. USA: ESRI.Google Scholar
Moreira, L., Baptistotti, C., Scalfone, J., Thomé, J.C. and de Almeida, A.P.L.S. (1995) Occurrence of Chelonia mydas on the Island of Trindade, Brazil. Marine Turtle Newsletter 70, 2.Google Scholar
Mortimer, J.A. and Carr, A. (1987) Reproduction and migrations of the Ascension Island green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Copeia, 1987, 103113.Google Scholar
Naro-Maciel, E., Becker, J.H., Lima, E.H.S.M., Marcovaldi, M.A. and DeSalle, R. (2007) Testing dispersal hypotheses in foraging green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) of Brazil. Journal of Heredity 98, 2939.Google Scholar
National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center (2001) Stock assessments of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles and an assessment of the impact of the pelagic longline fishery on the loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles of the Western North Atlantic. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-455.Google Scholar
National Research Council (1990) Decline of the sea turtles: causes and prevention. Washington, DC, USA: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
Pinedo, M.C. and Polacheck, T. (2004) Sea turtle by-catch in pelagic longline sets off southern Brazil. Biological Conservation 119, 335339.Google Scholar
Pritchard, P.C.H. (1973) International migrations of South American sea turtles (Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae). Animal Behaviour 21, 1827.Google Scholar
R Development Core Team (2006) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. []Google Scholar
Serafini, T.Z., Soto, J.M.R and Celini, A.A.O.S. (2002) Registro da captura de tartaruga-olivacea, Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz, 1829) (Testudinata, Cheloniidae), por espinhel pelágico no Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil. In Resumos do XXIV Congresso Brasileiro de Zoologia, Itajaí, SC, 17 a 22 de fevereiro de 2002, p. 460. Itajaí, SC, Brazil: CTTMar–UNIVALI.Google Scholar
Soares, L.S. (2004) Identificação de populações de tartarugas cabeçudas (Caretta caretta, Linnaeus 1758) no litoral brasileiro através de seqüências do mtDNA. Master's thesis, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.Google Scholar
Spotila, J.R., Reina, R.D., Steyermark, A.C., Plotkin, P.T. and Paladino, F.V. (2000) Pacific leatherback turtles face extinction. Nature 405, 529530.Google Scholar
Swimmer, Y., Sales, G., Giffoni, B. and Thomé, J.C. (2006) Sea turtles and longline fisheries interactions in Brazil—an update on field trials and post-release mortality and movements. In Frick, M. et al. (eds) Books of Abstracts of the Twenty-sixty Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. Athens, Greece: International Sea Turtle Society, pp. 267268.Google Scholar
Teas, W.G. (1993) Species composition and size class distribution of marine turtle strandings on the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast United States Coasts, 1985–1991. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-315.Google Scholar
Thomé, J.C.A., Baptistotte, C., Moreira, L.M. de P., Scalfoni, J.T., Almeida, A.P., Rieth, D.B. and Barata, P.C.R. (2007) Nesting biology and conservation of the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in the State of Espírito Santo, Brazil, 1988–89 to 2003–04. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 6, 1527.Google Scholar
Trono, R.B. and Salm, R.V. (1999) Regional collaboration. In Eckert, K.L. et al. (eds) Research and management techniques for the conservation of sea turtles. IUCN SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group publication, No. 4, pp. 224227.Google Scholar
Ulloa-Ramirez, P.A. and Gonzáles-Ania, L.V. (2000) Incidence of marine turtles in the Mexican long-line tuna fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. In Abreu-Grobois, F.A. et al. (eds) Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC 436, 110.Google Scholar
Watson, J.W., Epperly, S.P., Shah, A.K. and Foster, D.G. (2005) Fishing methods to reduce sea turtle mortality associated with pelagic longlines. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 62, 965981.Google Scholar
Witzell, W.N. (1984) The incidental capture of sea turtles in the Atlantic U.S. fishery conservation zone by the Japanese tuna longline fleet, 1978–81. Marine Fisheries Review 46, 5658.Google Scholar
Witzell, W.N. (1999) Distribution and relative abundance of sea turtles caught incidentally by the U.S. pelagic longline fleet in the western North Atlantic Ocean, 1992–1995. Fishery Bulletin 97, 200211.Google Scholar
Zar, J.H. (1996) Biostatistical analysis, 3rd. edn.Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar