Sea turtles captured in ghost nets

Emanuel Dobran
31 January 2020

Ghost fishing is a severe threat for all seven species of sea turtles found worldwide. Turtles must come to the surface to breathe so when they are caught in a net or on a fishing hook, they cannot surface and drown.

Αccording to a survey conducted by a team of conservation biologists, ∼85,000 turtles were recorded caught in fishing gear between 1990 and 2008. However, due to the small percentage of fishing effort observed and reported, this likely is a severe underestimation. 1

In the Mediterranean, the results of another study indicate that more than 150,000 turtles are captured in ghost gear per year with possibly over 50,000 deaths. 2

In 2018, more than 300 sea turtles were found dead off the coast of Mexico during their annual attempt to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles are rare sightings in most parts of the world. Especially the deep-diving Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) with a lower depth limit of 1,300 meters. That is what makes the rescue of this animal, listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, even more special!

Our friend, Maurizio Grbac of Krnica Dive, together with his team, was able to save a leatherback back in 2007, following a tip by a local fisherman who noticed the trapped animal near Krnica harbour (photos below by Emanuel Dobran).

Since we began our activities in 2013, the volunteer divers working with Healthy Seas have rescued many animals, but not a sea turtle.  We were, however, able to do something for these amazing creatures last December, when during 2 of our school programmes with Stichting Herpetofauna, nearly 1000 euros were raised by the children of  Korein Kindcentrum Platijn and Dé BroeBELschool for Turtle Rescue Cahuita, an organisation that protects the endangered leatherbacks in Costa Rica.


1Wallace, B.P., Lewison, R.L., McDonald, S.L., McDonald, R.K., Kot, C.Y., Kelez, S., Bjorkland, R.K., Finkbeiner, E.M., Helmbrecht, S. and Crowder, L.B. (2010), Global patterns of marine turtle bycatch.

2Casale P. (2008). Incidental catch of marine turtles in the Mediterranean Sea: captures, mortality, priorities. WWF Italy, Rome.

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