NOAA’s first national bycatch report out

23 Sep 2011
Researchers from NOAA Fisheries and the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife use sonar to study fishing techniques that improve selectivity and reduce bycatch on a commercial flatfish trawler. Credit: NOAA

Researchers from NOAA Fisheries and the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife use sonar to study fishing techniques that improve selectivity and reduce bycatch on a commercial flatfish trawler. Credit: NOAA

A new NOAA report of data collected in 2005 will help the agency’s scientists better monitor progress in reducing bycatch, according to the organisation.

While the National Bycatch Report does not represent an estimate of current bycatch rates, it is the first to compile collect regional data about US commercial fisheries into one nationwide report. It found that 17% of fish caught commercially were harvested unintentionally. The report also details the numbers of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds caught incidentally during fishing operations in 2005. The retrospective report provides a baseline for measuring bycatch reduction and establishes a consistent, comprehensive methodology for future studies.

“Fisheries managers, the fishing industry, and the environmental community share the goal of preventing and reducing bycatch, which is an important part of ending overfishing and ensuring sustainable marine resources,” said Richard Merrick, Ph.D., NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service chief scientist. “This report helps us understand the extent of bycatch in the US and the quality of our data about bycatch. As we update this report, we will see improvements in data quality and will measure the progress we believe management measures and technologies are having in reducing bycatch.”

Since 2005, important steps have been taken to address bycatch in fisheries across the country. NOAA’s Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program, which began in 2008, supports scientists working side-by-side with fishermen to test gear and fishing modifications which are often inspired by fishermen. The program has helped generate changes in fishing practices and technological solutions like “weak hooks,” which bend under pressure to allow the heavier bluefin tuna to free themselves from longline fishing hooks meant for yellowfin tuna and swordfish.

Cooperative research with fishermen across the country has helped design and test fishing gear to avoid bycatch, allow nontargeted species to escape nets or lines, and reduce harm to those species incidentally caught and released. NOAA’s law enforcement personnel routinely assist fishermen through outreach and education programs to ensure proper use of required bycatch-avoidance gear, like turtle excluder devices.

The report provides baseline bycatch estimates for 481 species, including marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and fish. It also presents bycatch estimates for 81 fisheries, which are defined by a combination of area, species, and fishing gear. A fishery can be made up of more than one fish species.

NOAA’s National Bycatch Report is available online. The agency continues to collect data on bycatch in preparation for the next edition of the national bycatch report, scheduled for 2013. Future editions in the report will be used to monitor changes and trends in bycatch, including as a result of new regulations, bycatch reduction devices, changes in fishing patterns, and population fluctuations in both targeted and bycatch species

Links to related companies and recent articles ...

NOAA

view more