Coastal populations have exploited sea turtles for their meat, eggs, shell, leather and oil for centuries. This unregulated harvest coupled with recent impacts of habitat degradation through coastal development and mortalities through incidental capture in fisheries has resulted in catastrophic declines of sea turtle populations throughout the Pacific Region.
Sea turtles migrate vast distances across ocean basins, living successively in varying life stages on the high seas and within coastal habitats around numerous Pacific nations. Consequently, a collaborative approach to management and conservation between nations is essential for the recovery of sea turtle populations.
The Council’s former Sea Turtle Advisory Committee recommended that the Council’s conservation efforts be directed towards international projects with a focus on those species that are of greatest likelihood to interact with the Hawaii-based longline fishery and whose populations are at greatest risk, namely loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. To date, the Council’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program consists of a suite of measures that include sea turtle conservation projects at nesting beaches and coastal foraging habitats, and actions that promote environmentally responsible longline fisheries.
The Council’s program consists of multiple projects considered to hold great scientific merit and high conservation value. These projects are implemented by local community-based non-government organizations and involve nesting beach conservation, the protection of adults and sub-adults in foraging grounds, the exchange of best practice fishery technology, and data management.
Nesting Beach Projects to conserve nesting females and their nests include:
- Monitoring and conservation activities at Warmon beach in collaboration with the Jamursba-medi project in Papua, Indonesia;
- Monitoring and conservation activities at four locations along the Huon coast of Papua New Guinea; and
- Loggerhead nesting beach management activities in Japan to reduce anthropogenic and environmental impacts to bolster hatchling production.
In-water studies to reduce mortality of juvenile and/or adults include:
- The Kei Kecil Islands, western Papua, Indonesia, to monitor and reduce local harvest in coastal foraging grounds; and
- The ProCaguama project to reduce mortality from accidental interactions of loggerhead turtles with coastal gillnet fisheries in Baja California, Mexico.
The Council’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program is consistent with the Bellagio Blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles and encourages sustainable traditional use practices by Pacific Islanders to promote longevity of marine flagship species.