The population abundance estimates used in stock assessments or required to establish management measures, depend on the sampling of the entire demographic spectrum of a population resident in a given area. However, for sea turtles, most population estimates are based mainly on nesting beach survey data and only consider a fraction of the population. The Southwest Atlantic Ocean (SWA) is an important foraging and development area for juveniles of the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta where reproductive stocks from various nesting beaches mix. Declines in C. caretta populations have been observed in many parts of the world and bycatch rates of this species in the SWA are among the highest worldwide. This study standardizes the catch rates of
loggerheads caught by pelagic longline fisheries in the region, using data collected by observer programs from Brazil and Uruguay. Generalized linear models (GLM) with a delta lognormal approximation were used. The variables used in the model take into account spatial and temporal variations as well as the characteristics of the fleet. In total, 6 272 344 hooks were observed
between 1998 and 2007, with minimum effort registered in 2000 (12 010 hooks) and maximum effort in 2005 (1 989 431 hooks). During this period 3778 loggerheads were incidentally captured. The catch rates of loggerheads by the Uruguayan and Brazilian pelagic longline fisheries show oscillations
through the years without a clear tendency; however, a low negative trend was observed from 1998 to 2005 with an increase in the last two years (2006 and 2007). The capture per unit of effort (CPUE) values varied between 0.38 to 1.78 ind/1000 hooks in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Distinct zones with differential catch rates were identified, with the higher CPUE values over the continental slope of Uruguay and adjacent waters. The incidental catch rates of this species are influenced, not only by fishing area, but also by year, season, sea surface temperature and gear type. In consequence, these variables and other potential ones should be considered in bycatch estimates
by different fisheries because the loggerhead sea turtles are not uniformly distributed. This study intends to contribute not only to the general knowledge of loggerhead sea turtles in the SWA but to a future assessment of their populations at a global scale.