WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. ecologists report small-scale fishing poses a greater threat to the survival of loggerhead sea turtles than does industrial fishing operations.
Ocean Conservancy Scientist Wallace Nichols and University of California-Santa Cruz researcher Hoyt Peckham recently completed a 10-year study that found the species is seriously threatened.
North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles travel more than 7,000 miles from Japan to feed and grow to maturity in the Baja California region, spending up to 30 years there before returning to Japan to breed.
The number of nesting females in Japan has declined by up to 80 percent during the 10 years, with young loggerheads spending most of their time in popular small-scale fishing locations.
"The combination of indiscriminate gillnets and long-line fishing gear and the density of loggerhead turtles results in a deadly situation for the turtles," said Nichols. "Local efforts to educate fishermen and remove dangerous fishing gear from the water are essential to protecting this endangered species that relies on the food-rich waters in Baja California, Mexico, for survival."
The 10-year study is reported in the online journal PLoS One.