SAN DIEGO, Calif. (March 17, 2014)Whenever fishing vessels harvest fish, other animals can be accidentally caught or entangled in fishing gear as bycatch. Numerous strategies exist to prevent bycatch, but data have been lacking on the global scale of this issue. A new in-depth analysis of global bycatch data provides fisheries and the conservation community with the best information yet to help mitigate the ecological damage of bycatch and helps identify where mitigation measures are most needed.
"When we talk about fisheries' catch, we're talking about what fishers are aiming to catch," explained Rebecca Lewison, an ecology professor at San Diego State University's Coastal Marine Institute Laboratory, who led the study with biology professor Larry Crowder of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station and Center for Ocean Solutions. "Bycatch are the animals they don't want or mean to catch."
Bycatch may include seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals. When these animals are accidentally tangled up in fishing lines or nets, nobody wins. It not only harms the local ecological balance, it also damages fishing gear and costs the industry time and money.
While this new analysis illustrates that bycatch is a complex, global process, the good news is that several strategies already exist to prevent bycatch, many of them developed by the fishing industry. For example, by varying the depth at which lines and nets are deployed, by using specially designed lures and hooks, and by employing turtle excluder devices, fisheries have increased target catch and reduced bycatch.
"Some of the earliest bycatch issues involved marine mammals taken in tuna nets and shrimp trawls that drowned sea turtles," Crowder said. "The problems were ultimately solved by scientists who clearly defined the problems and by managers and fishermen who sought innovative fishing methods to allow fisheries and protected species to coexist."
In the past, much of the research
|Contact: Beth Chee|
San Diego State University