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Donlan C.J.,Advanced Conservation Strategies | Donlan C.J.,Cornell University | Wingfield D.K.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Crowder L.B.,Duke Center for Marine Conservation | Wilcox C.,CSIRO
Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

Little is known about how specific anthropogenic hazards affect the biology of organisms. Quantifying the effect of regional hazards is particularly challenging for species such as sea turtles because they are migratory, difficult to study, long lived, and face multiple anthropogenic threats. Expert elicitation, a technique used to synthesize opinions of experts while assessing uncertainty around those views, has been in use for several decades in the social science and risk assessment sectors. We conducted an internet-based survey to quantify expert opinion on the relative magnitude of anthropogenic hazards to sea turtle populations at the regional level. Fisheries bycatch and coastal development were most often ranked as the top hazards to sea turtle species in a geographic region. Nest predation and direct take followed as the second and third greatest threats, respectively. Survey results suggest most experts believe sea turtles are threatened by multiple factors, including substantial at-sea threats such as fisheries bycatch. Resources invested by the sea turtle community, however, appear biased toward terrestrial-based impacts. Results from the survey are useful for conservation planning because they provide estimates of relative impacts of hazards on sea turtles and a measure of consensus on the magnitude of those impacts among researchers and practitioners. Our survey results also revealed patterns of expert bias, which we controlled for in our analysis. Respondents with no experience with respect to a sea turtle species tended to rank hazards affecting that sea turtle species higher than respondents with experience. A more-striking pattern was with hazard-based expertise: the more experience a respondent had with a specific hazard, the higher the respondent scored the impact of that hazard on sea turtle populations. Bias-controlled expert opinion surveys focused on threatened species and their hazards can help guide and expedite species recovery plans. © 2010 Society for Conservation Biology. Source


Hart K.M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Crowder L.B.,Duke Center for Marine Conservation
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2011

Chronic by-catch of diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) in blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) pots is a concern for terrapin conservation along the United States Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. Despite the availability of by-catch reduction devices (BRDs) for crab pots, adoption of BRDs has not been mandated and by-catch of terrapins continues. We conducted experimental fishing studies in North Carolina's year-round blue crab fishery from 2000 to 2004 to evaluate the ability of various BRDs to reduce terrapin by-catch without a concomitant reduction in the catch of blue crabs. In 4,822 crab pot days fished, we recorded only 21 terrapin captures. Estimated capture rates were 0.003 terrapins/pot per day in hard crab experimental fishing and 0.008 terrapins/pot per day in peeler experimental fishing. All terrapin captures occurred from April to mid-May within 321.4 m of the shoreline. Longer soak times produced more dead terrapins, with 4 live and 4 dead during hard crab experimental fishing and 11 live and 2 dead during peeler experimental fishing. The 4.0-cm BRDs in fall and 4.5-cm and 5.0-cm BRDs in spring reduced the catch of legal-sized male hard crabs by 26.6%, 21.2%, and 5.7%, respectively. Only the 5.0-cm BRDs did not significantly affect the catch of legal-sized hard male crabs. However, BRDs had no measurable effect on catch of target crabs in the peeler crab fishery. Our results identify 3 complementary and economically feasible tools for blue crab fishery managers to exclude terrapins from commercially fished crab pots in North Carolina: 1) gear modifications (e.g., BRDs); 2) distance-to-shore restrictions; and 3) time-of-year regulations. These measures combined could provide a reduction in terrapin by-catch of up to 95% without a significant reduction in target crab catch. © 2011 The Wildlife Society. Source


Bolten A.B.,University of Florida | Crowder L.B.,Duke Center for Marine Conservation | Macpherson S.L.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Musick J.A.,Virginia Institute of Marine Science | And 4 more authors.
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment | Year: 2011

The effectiveness of recovery plans for threatened and endangered species has been questioned in academic and political domains. A comprehensive assessment of species recovery plans concluded that quantification and prioritization of threats have received insufficient attention, which contributes to the failure of some plans. On the basis of this assessment, we developed and implemented a detailed analysis of threats in the Recovery Plan for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta), produced by the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The analytical approach that we designed and summarize here provides an objective process for quantifying known threats and prioritizing recovery actions in terms of their relative impact on population growth rate (A.) of the loggerhead sea turtle. Although this process was developed for loggerhead sea turtles, it can be applied to other species. © The Ecological Society of America. Source


Craig J.K.,Florida State University | Gillikin P.C.,Duke Center for Marine Conservation | Gillikin P.C.,NC Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve | Magelnicki M.A.,Duke Center for Marine Conservation | And 2 more authors.
Fisheries Oceanography | Year: 2010

Highly productive surface waters and hypoxic (dissolved oxygen, DO ≤ 2.0 mg L-1) bottom waters develop seasonally on the northwestern Gulf of Mexico continental shelf due to nutrient and freshwater inputs from the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River system. We investigated the spatial distribution of the cownose ray (Rhinoptera bonasus), a highly mobile, bentho-pelagic species that is a seasonal resident of the shelf, in relation to surface chlorophyll, bottom-water hypoxia, and other environmental variables (salinity, temperature, depth). We used synoptic trawl and aerial surveys to investigate ray distributions at both shelfwide (100-1000s km) and local (5-50 km) spatial scales. Shelfwide sampling indicated that rays were associated with regions of high surface chlorophyll and low bottom salinity and DO, conditions characterizing the Mississippi-Atchafalaya plume region. Local sampling in and around the hypoxic zone indicated that rays preferred habitats where bottom waters were hypoxic but they primarily occupied normoxic (DO > 2.0 mg L-1) waters above the bottom hypoxic layer. Stomach fullness and diet composition were similar between rays sampled in habitats with hypoxic versus normoxic bottom waters. These results indicate that cownose rays are strongly associated with riverine-influenced regions of the shelf and preferentially use habitats with hypoxic bottom waters, perhaps for benthic foraging. Collectively, our results highlight the importance of considering the responses of mobile species to enhanced productivity and to hypoxia-induced habitat degradation, which are both the products of coastal eutrophication. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source


Hamann M.,James Cook University | Godfrey M.H.,North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission | Seminoff J.A.,Southwest Fisheries Science Center | Arthur K.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | And 32 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2010

Over the past 3 decades, the status of sea turtles and the need for their protection to aid population recovery have increasingly captured the interest of government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the general public worldwide. This interest has been matched by increased research attention, focusing on a wide variety of topics relating to sea turtle biology and ecology, together with the interrelations of sea turtles with the physical and natural environments. Although sea turtles have been better studied than most other marine fauna, management actions and their evaluation are often hindered by the lack of data on turtle biology, human-turtle interactions, turtle population status and threats. In an effort to inform effective sea turtle conservation a list of priority research questions was assembled based on the opinions of 35 sea turtle researchers from 13 nations working in fields related to turtle biology and/or conservation. The combined experience of the contributing researchers spanned the globe as well as many relevant disciplines involved in conservation research. An initial list of more than 200 questions gathered from respondents was condensed into 20 metaquestions and classified under 5 categories: reproductive biology, biogeography, population ecology, threats and conservation strategies. © Inter-Research 2010. Source

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