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1. Over the last few decades, evidence of marine vertebrate bycatch has been collected for a range of industrial fisheries. It has recently been acknowledged that large impacts may also result from similar interactions with small-scale fisheries (SSF) due largely to their diffuse effort and large number of vessels in operation. Marine mammals, seabirds, turtles as well as some shark species have been reported as being impacted by SSF worldwide.
2. From 2000 to 2007, we used both shore-based and onboard observer programmes from three SSF ports in Peru to assess the impact on marine turtles of small-scale longline, bottom set nets and driftnet fisheries.
3. We reported a total of 807 sea turtles captured, 91Æ8% of which were released alive. For these three sites alone, we estimated c. 5900 turtles captured annually (3200 loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta, 2400 green turtles Chelonia mydas, 240 olive ridleys Lepidochelys olivacea and 70 leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea).
4. SSF in Peru are widespread and numerous (>100 ports, >9500 vessels, >37 000 fishers), and our observed effort constituted c. 1% of longline and net deployments. We suggest that the number of turtles captured per year is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Thus, the impacts of Peruvian SSF have the potential to severely impact sea turtles in the Pacific especially green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles.
5. Implications of the human use of turtle products as ‘marine bushmeat’ are also raised as an important issue. Although such utilization is illegal, it is difficult to foresee how it can be managed without addressing the constraints to the livelihoods of those depending almost entirely on coastal resources.
6. Syntheses and applications. Our analysis demonstrates that, despite logistical challenges, it is feasible to estimate the bycatch per unit of effort in SSF by combining methods that account for fishing effort and bycatch, such as using onboard and shore-based observers. We highlight sea turtle bycatch in SSF in the southeast Pacific as a major conservation concern but also suggest possible paths for mitigation.