U.N. group drafts turtle guideline

A U.N. organization is compiling the first international guideline for protecting sea turtles from fishing operations, according to Japanese government sources.

One of the major reasons why the worldwide sea turtle population is declining is that many of them die after being caught or trapped by fishing devices.

Japan will take measures in advance of the guideline, such as telling tuna fishers to use hooks that are less likely to catch sea turtles by mistake, the sources said.

The government will also reinforce related technical support and financial cooperation to countries in Southeast Asia and Central and South American countries, they said.

The draft of the nonbinding guideline, being compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization, is expected to be finalized and adopted by its Committee on Fisheries in March, the sources said Wednesday.

According to the domestic Fisheries Agency, many sea turtles are caught by shrimp trawlers in Southeast Asia, so Japan is working with 10 countries in the region to study the situation.

Environmental protection groups have welcomed the FAO’s move.

“Some sea turtle stocks are seriously impacted by fishing and require urgent attention,” the draft says.

The draft offers guidance to foreign governments as well as multilateral organizations and fishing entities on taking further measures to protect sea turtles, according to the sources.

It lists technical steps that can be taken and that have been found to be effective, such as using certain types of hooks and baits and setting hooks at depths where they will not be within reach of the turtles, they added.