Project financed with the contribution of the LIFE+ 2012 financial instrument of the European Community and co-financed by the Italian Ministry of agricultural, food and forestry policies and Marche Region.
First of October 2013 – 30th of September 2018
The impact of fishing activities is considered as the most important anthropogenic mortality factor for marine turtle populations in the Mediterranean Sea. The conservation of Caretta caretta, a priority species included in App. II/IV of the Habitat Directive and protected in various international Conventions, has been representing a strategic issue for the whole Mediterranean basin, with professional fishing being the main threat for the survival of marine turtles.
In the Mediterranean, surface longline, driftnet and bottom trawl nets operating in the Mediterranean are the major threats to the survival of this species, even if the impact of fixed gears (gillnets and trammel nets) should be carefully considered.
Recent estimates report that fishing activities are responsible to the incidental catch of about 130000 marine turtles every year in the Mediterranean, caused by longline (70000), bottom trawl (40000) and fixed net (ca.23000), with over 40000 estimated deaths; official data do not include all existing boats and underestimate the number of small boats, mainly from North Africa countries: therefore, a more realistic number can be set at 200000 catches and 70000 deaths.
Statistics, accounts from fishermen and the increasing number of interventions by Italian Marine Turtles Rescue Centres, therefore, prove the urgent need to combat such phenomenon, which each year causes the injury or death of a wide number of turtles and has a strong negative impact on the conservation of the species, rapidly declining in the Mediterranean area.
As it concerns the bottom trawl, data available for Italian waters suggest a catch of at least 8.500 specimens per year and more than 40.000 capture events, considering that the same turtle can be caught more than one time. North Adriatic Sea with its shallow waters and rich benthic communities is considered as one of the most important feeding habitat in the whole Mediterranean, mainly for the population nesting in Greece. The occurrence of turtles in the north Adriatic is probably due to its relatively shallow waters (<100 m) where turtles in demersal phase are more likely to concentrate. For this area it is possible to estimate annual catch of over than 4.000 specimens, Italian side, and at least 2.500 turtles per year are captured by the Croatian bottom trawlers (although this picture could be underestimated).
The drifting longline deployed for swordfish and tuna-like species is considered as the main threat to marine turtles in the Mediterranean. Over 50.000 specimens are estimated to be bycaught with pelagic longliners. In Italy turtles are mainly caught during the migration from the eastern to the western Mediterranean basin and vice versa through the Straits of Messina and the Strait of Sicily). The two corridors are characterized by high fishing pressure and Italian longliners are estimated to be responsible for 10.000 captures per year.
Fixed nets represent a threat for sea turtles mainly in coastal areas (Lazar et al. 2004a) but the quantification of turtle captures in these widely spread fisheries is very difficult to assess.
In this complicated scenario the TartaLife project aims at reducing sea turtle mortality by reducing bycatches caused by pelagic longline, bottom trawl and fixed nets disseminating circle hooks and TEDs (Turtle Excluder Devices) and testing UV lamps as deterrent for Sea Turtles and a new type of pot. The second goal is to reduce post-capture mortality, by training fishermen and strengthening the Marine turtles First Aid/Rescue Centres.