Virginia CZM Program: 2016 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:CZM logo



Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Project Title:

Sea Turtles and Fishing Piers – Mitigating Hook-and-line Interactions

Project Description:

Sea turtles in Virginia face many threats to their survival, including serious injury and mortality from entanglement in commercial fishing gear, vessel strikes from both commercial and recreational vessels, and entanglement and ingestion of recreational hook and line gear and marine debris. While federal regulations address many concerns posed by commercial fishing, interactions with the recreational hook-and-line fisheries remains largely unreported and/or unaddressed.  The Federal Loggerhead Recovery Plan identifies the reduction of hook and line interactions as a high priority action. In recent years, reported interactions between recreational fishermen and sea turtles in Virginia have been increasing dramatically. From 2009-2012, an average of 2.5 “hooked” sea turtles were reported per season. Since then, the numbers of these interactions, as well as the number of turtles admitted into rehab per season, have been increasing substantially. In 2015 alone, a total of 47 sea turtles were incidentally taken by the hook and line fishery, of which 35 underwent some level of rehabilitation prior to being released.

The goal of this project is to develop realistic conservation, mitigation and/or regulatory measures that minimize the impact of recreational hook and line fishing on sea turtles in Virginia. Because most of the hook-and-line interactions documented in Virginia occurred on piers, we will focus our efforts on pier fishers. The VDGIF will partner with the Virginia Aquarium to complete this work.  We propose three objectives to achieve our goal. First, we will build on the pilot study efforts of the Virginia Pier Partner Program to educate the recreational pier fishing community to increase reporting of hooked sea turtles and encourage proper response to these interactions. Second, we will expand collection and analysis of data gathered from piers and pier-caught sea turtles to better understand the nature of these interactions for mitigation. Third, we will test technology that will allow us to detect ingested hooks without veterinary assistance thus improving response to hooked sea turtles and allowing for rapid release of otherwise healthy turtles.

Target species include:
1. The Northwest Atlantic Ocean loggerhead sea turtle Distinct Population Segment (DPS).
2. Kemp’s ridley sea turtle
3. Green sea turtle

This project will sustain and expand the Virginia Pier Partner Program, continue to support and improve diagnostic practices for hooked sea turtles, and use the data collected from stranding and outreach efforts to develop management and mitigation recommendations for turtles caught on recreational hook-and-line gear in Virginia. Due to the rising prevalence of reported hooked turtles in Virginia and throughout southeastern U.S., continuing to investigate this problem will be valuable not only in the Commonwealth, but throughout the species’ US range. The comprehensive analyses of the survey data will provide VDGIF, VMRC and USFWS with the necessary information to either develop effective outreach materials, BMPs and/or regulations for the hook-and-line fishery to reduce the incidental capture of turtles.

These efforts address recovery objectives in the Loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley federal recovery plans as well as conservation actions in the draft Virginia/Maryland Sea Turtle Conservation Plan (see methods section below) which will serve as a companion document to Virginia’s 2015 Wildlife Action Plan. This project also will help address the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan’s “Healthy Ocean Ecosystem” goal.  In the recently released NOAA Fisheries Regional Recreational Fisheries Action Agenda, Greater Atlantic Region, this proposal addresses objective 3: projects 2 and 3.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Becky Gwynn, 804.829.6720,

Project Status:

10/1/16 - 3/31/18; Project Open

Final Product:


Project Summary:


Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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