Entangled and drowned in a fishing net off the coast of Brazil, these green sea turtles in an undated picture are just a few of the millions of sea turtles that have been unintentionally killed by fishing operations over the past 20 years, according to a study released today by the journal Conservation Letters.
"Of all the threats sea turtles face right now, bycatch is the most serious," said Bryan Wallace, a marine biologist with Conservation International and lead author of the study. (Read a commentary by Wallace on how he thinks changing your eating habits can help sea turtles.)
The study pulls together data from around the world on sea turtle deaths from nets, hooks, and trawlsóand questions the estimates of previous reports.
"Because the reports we reviewed typically covered less than one percent of all fleets, with little or no information from small-scale fisheries around the world, we conservatively estimate that the true total is probably not in tens of thousands, but in the millions of turtles taken as bycatch in the past two decades," the authors write.
Six of the seven sea turtle species are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species.
(Also see "Eight Million Sharks Killed Accidentally off Africa Yearly.")