EXPERTS in marine turtles have warned of the urgent need to modify the habits of Mediterranean fishermen in order to avoid the extinction of this species. Every year 4'000 of the turtles die due to injuries from the hooks which form part of the fishing apparatus.
If this number is not reduced, it is possible that marine turtles will disappear from the Mediterranean within a few years, warned the vet Ferran Alegre, director of the Foundation for the Conservation adn Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM). Alegre explained that the marine turtle population in the Mediterranean is in decline and runs the risk of extinction because of various things, such as the destruction of their nesting beaches, contamination of the sea, the effects of ships' propellers and especially methods of fishing using nets or lines with hooks. According to this expert, the number of marine turtles living in the Mediterranean is unknown, although it is estimated that between 10'000 and 15'000 are accidentally caught by fishermen every year, of which around 30 percent die from the injuries caused by the hooks. This expert said that changing the hooks from the J form to circular ones or ones in the G form would not hinder the fishermen in their catches but it would stop between 65 and 90 percent of the accidental catching of the turtles, and this would be a considerable reduction in the number of deaths among these animals in danger of extinction. To make fishermen aware of the important role they have in the survival of this species, the crew of the sailing ship Vell Mari, which set sail from Barcelona in March to protect the marine turtles, have been working for a week with the fishermen from the Balearics and Sardinia. The director for Environment and Science from La Caixa's Obra Social said that this pioneering move had been a complete success, as every day some 15 turtles caught on the hooks had been saved.