Postrelease movements of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) following incidental capture in fishing gear in the Atlantic Ocean

Emily P. Bond and Michael C. James
Cover date
Published online 17 November 2021

Fisheries bycatch is posited to be a leading cause of decline in abundance of Atlantic leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). However, although this species regularly interacts with fisheries across its range, movements and postrelease survival of leatherbacks remain largely unstudied. Such research is lacking because sampling opportunities are unpredictable and logistically challenging. Here, movements of 4 leatherbacks equipped with satellite tags following incidental capture in fixed-gear fisheries in Nova Scotia, Canada, are presented, alongside results from previous post-entanglement tracking of 15 leatherbacks tagged throughout the Atlantic Ocean. Mean tracking duration after tagging was 232.58 d (standard deviation 165.61; sample size=19), comparable with what has been reported for fishery-independent deployments of satellite tags on leatherbacks. This result indicates that, provided they are released carefully and completely from fishing gear, many leatherbacks survive entanglement events without apparent long-term effects.