Unraveling the hidden truth in a poorly managed ecosystem: The case of discarded species of conservation interest in Bangladesh industrial marine fisheries
Discard has long been recognized a serious problem in the world’s oceans affecting not only the non-target species but also entire trophic food chain and habitats thus disrupting marine ecosystem functioning. Due to global declines, species of conservation interest (e.g. sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins) which are crucial for maintaining a healthy ecosystem have become a focus of marine conservation in recent years. Although effort has been made to elucidate the historical trends of discards and, its effects on the marine fisheries worldwide, most of these are based on the data-rich developed countries. This has been largely unexplored in many of the developing countries such as Bangladesh, especially for industrial marine fisheries. Here in this study, we tried to fill this knowledge gap using discard data collected from the bottom and mid-water freezer trawler from the marine water of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. It was revealed that both the bottom and mid-water trawling has the similar level of effect on the number of total discarded species of conservation interest (SOCI) although the number of shark discard was significantly higher in bottom trawling. The historical reconstruction of total discards of SOCI from freezer trawler suggests an increase of over six times between 1990 and 2014. The increasing number of trawls (both in the bottom and mid-water trawl) and the increase in the speed at bottom trawling both have a significant negative effect on SOCI especially shark. We suggest a strong implementation of existing laws, increasing the capacity of surveillance and the monitoring systems as well as improved technological fix such as gear modification can substantially lower the discarded bycatch from Bangladesh marine water.