Molecular resolution of marine turtle stock composition in fishery bycatch: a case study in the Mediterranean.

Original article


Laurent L, Casale P, Bradai MN, Godley BJ, Gerosa G, Broderick AC, Schroth W, Schierwater B, Levy AM, Freggi D, Abd el-Mawla EM, Hadoud DA, Gomati HE, Domingo M, Hadjichristophorou M, Kornaraky L, Demirayak F, Gautier C.

Bio-Interface, Villeurbanne, France.

Mol Ecol. 1998 Nov;7(11):1529-42.


Based on an extensive sampling regime from both nesting populations and bycatch, frequency analyses of mitochondrial (mt) DNA control region haplotypes in the Mediterranean were used to assess the genetic structure and stock composition of the loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, in different marine fisheries. The analyses show the following. (i) In drifting longline fisheries working in Mediterranean pelagic habitats 53-55% of turtles caught originated from the Mediterranean stock; (ii) In bottom-trawl fisheries all turtle bycatch is derived from this regional stock; (iii) This regional stock contribution to fishery bycatch suggests that the population size of the Mediterranean loggerhead nesting population is significantly larger than previously thought. This is consistent with a recent holistic estimate based on the discovery of a large rookery in Libya. (iv) Present impact of fishery-related mortality on the Mediterranean nesting population is probably incompatible with its long-term conservation. Sea turtle conservation regulations are urgently needed for the Mediterranean fisheries. (v) The significant divergence of mtDNA haplotype frequencies of the Turkish loggerhead colonies define this nesting population as a particularly important management unit. Large immature and adult stages from this management unit seem to be harvested predominantly by Egyptian fisheries. (vi) Combined with other data, our findings suggest that all the nesting populations in the Mediterranean should be considered as management units sharing immature pelagic habitats throughout the Mediterranean (and possibly the eastern Atlantic), with distinct and more localized benthic feeding habitats in the eastern basin used by large immatures and adults. (vii) Between the strict oceanic pelagic and the benthic stages, immature turtles appear to live through an intermediate neritic stage, in which they switch between pelagic and benthic foods.

Keywords: Mediterranean,marine turtle ,Ecosystem