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Temperature Observations To Avoid Loggerheads Tool Supports Turtle Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries

September 05, 2019

NOAA Fisheries scientists have developed a new experimental dynamic ocean management tool called TOTAL – Temperature Observations To Avoid Loggerheads - to reduce accidental catches of protected loggerhead turtles in fishing nets.

Side by side chart of sea surface temperature and sea surface temperature anomaly.

TOTAL uses ocean temperature conditions off the southern California coast to guide the timing of a commercial fishery closure to prevent unwanted turtle bycatch by a large-mesh drift gillnet fleet. When temperature conditions indicate that loggerhead presence off southern California is likely, the TOTAL tool issues an alert indicating that the commercial fishery closure is recommended.

Loggerhead turtles from the endangered North Pacific population migrate to the waters off California and Mexico to feed in the rich eastern Pacific waters.  However, higher than normal sea surface temperatures can bring turtles into the Southern California coast region where they are more likely to be entangled in commercial fishing gear.  NOAA Fisheries and academic partners are working together with the fishing industry to reduce loggerhead bycatch without causing undue impact on the industry. Using a long-term dataset on loggerhead distribution, the team explored the ocean temperature conditions that cause turtles to enter these waters in order to develop a rule to guide the timing of the Loggerhead Conservation Area fisheries closure.

The newly launched Conservation Area status page displays the up-to-date environmental information used to determine closures, such as sea temperature, El Niño status, and the TOTAL tool status. Users can also view historical environmental observations and information for waters off Southern California and the Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area, going back to 2003 when the Loggerhead Conservation Area was established.

The Loggerhead Turtle Conservation site is supported by a partnership that includes NOAA Fisheries, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, University of California Santa Cruz, and NOAA CoastWatch.

Visit the new Loggerhead Turtle Conservation site hosted by the Coast Watch's West Coast Node.

Read the manuscript.