Necropcia tortuga marina

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Necropsy findings in sea turtles taken as bycatch in the North Pacific longline fishery
Thierry M. Work
Hawaii Field Station
National Wildlife Health Center
U.S. Geological Survey
300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850.

E-mail address:

George H. Balazs
Honolulu Laboratory
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
National Marine FisheriesService, NOAA
2570 Dole St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822.

Concern about interactions between turtles caught in longline fisheries are
fisheries and marine turtles has in- released alive (McCracken1; Kleiber2).
creased in recent years, particularly The few dead turtles that area recov­
since East Pacific leatherback turtles ered can be returned to shore legally
(Dermochelys coriacea) maybecome only by observers (who are present in
extinct (Spotila et al., 2000). However, only ~5% of the Hawaii-based North
relatively little published information Pacific fishing fleet) (Balazs et al.,
exists on interactions between sea 1995). Nevertheless, examining freshly
turtles and North Pacific longline fish- dead turtles caught in longline fisher­
eries. The most available literature onies provides a unique opportunity to
the topic focuses on modeling data from gain insight into the health status and
fisheries observers for estimating the diet of pelagic sea turtles. Our objec­
probability of animals dying and fish- tive was to systematically evaluate all
ery-induced mortality (McCracken1; available carcasses of fresh-frozen sea
Kleiber2). A more recent study wasturtles that had been caught in the
undertaken with satellite telemetry Hawaii-based longline fishery for an
and remote sensing to evaluate the evaluation of their health and to docu­
probability of interaction between ment their diet.
1 McCracken, M. L. 2000. Estimation of longline fisheries and loggerhead
sea turtle take and mortality in the Ha­ sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and thewaiian longline fisheries. Administra­ effects of hooking (Polovina et al., Methods
tive Report H-00-06, 29 p. Southwest 2000; Parker, in press).
Fisheries Science Center, Nat. Mar. Fish. Necropsies on turtles caught by Free-ranging marine turtles acciden­
Service, NOAA, 2570 Dole St., Honolulu, longline fisheries may provide ad- tally taken as bycatch by the North
HI 96822. ditionalobjective data on the causes Pacific longline fishery were landed
2 Kleiber, P. 1998. Estimating annual takes of mortality and the health of pelagic on the fishing vessel and evaluated
and kills of sea turtles by the Hawaiian longline fishery, 1991–97, from observer turtles. Although ample literature ex- for signs of life by fishery observers
program and logbook data. Administra­ ists on evaluatingthe health of benthic employed by the National Marine
tive Report H-98-08, 21 p. Southwest coastal-residing immature sea turtles Fisheries Service. Sea turtles that
Fisheries Science Center, Nat. Mar. Fish. Serv., NOAA, 2570 Dole St., Honolulu, HI in Hawaiian waters (Aguirre et al., were judged to be dead by specific cri-
96822. 1994; Work and Balazs, 1999), noth- teria (Balazs et al., 1995)were stored
ing is known about the health status frozen and returned to Honolulu,
of pelagic sea turtles because of the Hawaii, where we recorded weight (kg)
difficulty in locating animals (Bolten and body morphometrics (cm).
and Balazs, 1983) and the unavailabilGross necropsies entailed a complete
Manuscript accepted 28 May 2002. ity of specimens for diagnosis. Most external andinternal exam of all organ
Fish. Bull. 100:876–880 (2002).

systems. We also recorded any identifi­ able stomach contents. Body condition of turtles was subjectively classified as good, fair or poor if coelomic and mesen­ teric fat reserves appeared ample, mod­ erate, or sparse, respectively. Postmor­ tem condition was classified as good, fair, or poor depending on the gross ap­ pearance of organs...