Gillnet fisheries are widely thought to pose a conservation threat to many populations of marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles. Gillnet fisheries also support a significant proportion of small-scale fishing communities worldwide. Despite a large number of studies on protected-species bycatch in recent decades, relatively few have examined the underlying causes of bycatch and fewer still have considered the issue from a multitaxon perspective. We used 3 bibliographic databases and one search engine to identify studies by year of publication and taxon. The majority of studies on the mechanisms of gillnet bycatch are not accessible through the mainstream published literature. Many are reported in technical papers, government reports, and university theses. We reviewed over 600 published and unpublished studies of bycatch in which causal or correlative factors were considered and identified therein 28 environmental, operational, technical, and behavioral factors that may be associated with high or low bycatch rates of the taxa. Of the factors considered, 11 were associated with potential bycatch reduction in 2 out of the 3 taxa, and 3 factors (water depth, mesh size, and net height) were associated with trends in bycatch rate for all 3 taxa. These findings provide a basis to guide further experimental work to test hypotheses about which factors most influence bycatch rates and to explore ways of managing fishing activities and improving gear design to minimize the incidental capture of species of conservation concern while ensuring the viability of the fisheries concerned.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a circle hook ring on catch rates of target fish species and bycatch rates of sea turtles, elasmobranchs, and non-commercial fish in a shallow-set Italian swordfish longline fishery.
Results were compared from 65 sets from six commercial fishing vessels totalling 50 800 hooks in which ringed and non-ringed 16/0 circle hooks with a 10° offset were alternated along the length of the longline. In total, 464 individuals were caught in the 4 years of experiment, with swordfish (Xiphias gladius) comprising 83% of the total number of animals captured. Catch rates of targeted swordfish were significantly higher on ringed hooks (CPUEringed hooks = 8.465, CPUEnon-ringed hooks = 6.654).
Results indicate that ringed circle hooks captured significantly more small-sized swordfish than non-ringed circle hooks (27.7% vs. 19.5%, respectively).
For species with sufficient sample sizes, the odds ratio (OR) of a capture was in favour of ringed hooks; significantly for swordfish (OR = 1.27 95%CI 1.04–1.57), and not significantly for bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) (OR = 1.50, 95%CI 0.68–3.42) nor for pelagic stingray (Pteroplatytrigon violacea) (OR = 1.13, 95%CI 0.54–2.36). All six loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and three of the four blue sharks (Prionace glauca) were captured on ringed hooks, however, the small sample sizes prevented meaningful statistical analysis.
In summary, results from this study suggest that the addition of a ring to 16/0 circle hooks confers higher catchability for small-sized commercial swordfish, and does not significantly reduce catch rate of bycatch species and protected species in a Mediterranean shallow pelagic longline fishery.
These findings should motivate fisheries managers to consider factors in addition to hook shape when aiming to promote sustainable fishing practices. The presence of a ring has the potential to negate some conservation benefits.
Bycatch mortality is a significant driver of marine mammal population declines. However, there is little information available on patterns or magnitude of bycatch mortality in many heavily fished Asian marine systems such as the South China Sea (SCS). To address this limited knowledge base, we conducted interviews with fishers to gather local ecological knowledge on marine mammal bycatch around Hainan Island, China. Gillnets were the primary fishing gear used in local fisheries, and were also responsible for the majority of reported marine mammal bycatch events in recent decades. Bycatch events were reported from all seasons but were most frequent in spring (38.4%), which might relate to seasonal variation in fishing activities. The spatial pattern of relative bycatch densities for Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Indo-Pacific finless porpoises and unidentified small dolphins varied around Hainan and neighbouring waters. A substantial proportion of informants (36.1 and 9.2% respectively) reported that they have eaten or sold marine mammal meat, demonstrating the continued existence of cultural practices of consuming marine mammals on Hainan. Responses of fishers to bycatch events were dependent both on their existing attitudes and perceptions towards marine mammals and on other sociocultural factors. Almost half of informants agreed that marine mammal populations in the SCS have decreased. Declines were thought by informants to have been caused by overfishing, water pollution and vessel collisions, with bycatch responsible for further declines in dolphins.
Seabirds, as foragers in marine waters for at least part of their lifecycle, encounter the global fishing fleet in search of marine resources. While fishing gear is designed to catch fish and invertebrates, it also catches unintended species, including seabirds. We reviewed bycatch incidence for 378 marine and coastal bird species in 18 different gear types, and found that 60% (228 species) have been recorded interacting with at least one type of fishing gear. At least one species from each of the taxonomic groups analyzed (generally at the family level) has been documented interacting with fishing gear. With respect to two measures of degree of interaction, four families have a high degree of documented interaction: Gaviidae (loons or divers), Podicipedidae (grebes), Diomedeidae (albatrosses) and Sulidae (boobies and gannets). Set and drift gillnets (among the most studied gear types), have the greatest number of documented species interactions: 92 and 88 species, respectively. Hook gear (longlines and handlines) have documented interactions with 127 species. Together these four gear types have documented bycatch of 193 species. The waters of the Arctic, the Caribbean, the Guinea and Canary Currents in the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and Asia have been poorly studied. Particular gear types, including industrially-deployed seines, and the artisanal fisheries sector also constitute significant gaps in our knowledge of seabird bycatch patterns worldwide.
A species separation grid was tested for a squid trawl to reduce finfish bycatch in the Nantucket Sound longfin inshore squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) fishery in southern New England, USA. The experimental trawl with a grid significantly reduces bycatch of summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) (76.4%, p < .001), black sea bass (Centropristis striata) (71.7%, p = .001), smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) (86.0%, p < .001), and total bycatch (69.2%, p < .001) when compared to a conventional trawl. The catch rate of scup (Stenotomus chrysops) is 40.2% less than in the experimental trawl, but this difference is not statistically significant (p = .258). However, the experimental trawl also reduces targeted squid capture by 47.5% (p < .001), which is commercially unacceptable. Length analysis indicates no size effect on the retention for squid between the trawl with a grid (experimental) and the one without a grid (control), but the experimental trawl significantly reduces larger scup (>27 cm FL) and larger black sea bass (>37 cm TL), and all summer flounder size-classes. Therefore, this grid design may not be a suitable bycatch reduction device for the Nantucket Sound squid trawl fishery, and further work is needed to understand squid behavior within a trawl to develop a successful bycatch reduction strategy for the New England longfin inshore squid fishery.
Estimates of post-release mortality (PRM) rates for discarded bycatch are largely unknown across marine fisheries and represent a substantial source of uncertainty when estimating total fishery mortality. One way to predict PRM is through the use of reflex action mortality predictors (RAMP), whereby the presence or absence of target reflexes and known post-release fate are used to create a delayed mortality model. We employed reflex impairment assessments in concert with post-capture caging and video monitoring to predict 5-d PRM rates for the deep-sea giant isopod Bathynomus giganteus, a common bycatch species in numerous deepwater fisheries worldwide, and also considered the factors contributing to mortality. Mortality rates 5 d post-capture ranged from 50 to 100% and both RAMP scores and time at the surface were significant predictors of mortality, although our conclusions regarding the effect of surface time are limited. In-cage video documented little movement within the 24-h monitoring period following capture, and it appeared that surviving individuals often fed within the holding period after cage deployment. Our results suggest that PRM in B. giganteus is common and that this unaccounted source of mortality should be quantified for other deep-sea crustaceans captured as bycatch.
The survival of federally protected North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) requires an immediate reduction in the risk of entanglement in commercial fishing gear. This paper argues that at least a 30% reduction in risk is needed to meaningfully contribute to the conservation of right whales. The argument follows from risk estimates calculated using time and space intersections of right whales and fishing gear in Canadian waters. Almost all the risk occurs during July, August and September (12%, 50%, 37% respectively) and the groundfish fishery contributed the greatest proportion (86%) of annual risk. Given that efforts in the USA to reduce entanglement risk through modified fishing gear have been unsuccessful to date, we address the alternative option of restricting certain fishing gear at times and locations where entanglement risk is elevated. There are many options that Canada could employ to achieve the above risk reduction and our results clearly point to the most effective and efficient action being seasonally restricted fishing in two relatively small regions; the Grand Manan Basin and the Roseway Basin. Fully a third (34%±4%) of the annual risk is associated with these two basins, though fishery catch estimates in the basins are relatively small and declining.
The broader ecosystem impacts of fishing continue to present a challenge to scientists and resource managers around the world. Bycatch is of greatest concern for marine mammals, for which fishery bycatch and entanglement is the number one cause of direct mortality. Climate change will only add to the challenge, as marine species and fishing practices adapt to a changing environment, creating a dynamic pattern of overlap between fishing and species (both target and bycatch). Economists suggest policy instruments for reducing bycatch that move away from top-down, command-and-control measures (e.g. effort reduction, time/area closures, gear restrictions, bycatch quotas) towards an approach that creates incentives to reduce bycatch (e.g. transferable bycatch allowances, taxes, and other measures). The advantages of this flexible, incentive-oriented approach are even greater in a changing and increasingly variable environment, as regulatory measures would have to be adapted constantly to keep up with climate change. Unlike the regulatory process, individual operators in the fishery sector can make adjustments to their harvesting practices as soon as the incentives for such changes are apparent and inputs or operations can be modified. This paper explores policy measures that create economic incentives not only to reduce marine mammal bycatch, but also to increase compliance and induce technological advances by fishery operators. Economists also suggest exploration of direct economic incentives as have been used in other conservation programs, such as payments for economic services, in an approach that addresses marine mammal bycatch as part of a larger conservation strategy. Expanding the portfolio of mandatory and potentially, voluntary, measures to include novel approaches will provide a broader array of opportunities for successful stewardship of the marine environment.
As tropical pelagic species are attracted by floating objects in the surface of the ocean, industrial purse seiners deploy thousands of man-made drifting fish aggregating devices (DFADs) to facilitate their catch of tunas. However, the sharp increase in the use of DFADs leads to some ecological concerns, such as producing higher amount of by-catch or alteration of natural behaviour of fish. We used fishers’ satellite-linked GPS buoys equipped with echo-sounders to continuously collect acoustic samples under remote DFADs and investigate the diel behaviour patterns of the associated fish (i.e., non-tuna species and small and large tunas) and their potential biological interactions. Results showed a strong correlation between the presence of non-tuna species and small tunas, and between small and large tunas. Diel biomass dynamics were highly variable and seem to be both species and region-specific, which may suggest adaptive behaviour patterns. Tuna associated with DFADs in the Somalia area showed a clear night-time associative behaviour. In contrast, tuna in the NW Seychelles associated with DFADs to a greater degree during daytime. In the Mozambique Channel, large tuna showed daytime associative behaviour, while small tuna showed a maximum biomass at sunrise, decreasing over the day. The associative behaviour of non-tuna species was slightly variable, being uniform near the equator or showing two peaks when increasing latitude. This study shows the importance and effect of biological factors on the associative behaviour of the fish and serves as a first step towards improving pre-set selectivity of purse seine fisheries using DFADs. The fish presence and density may improve DFAD attraction and detectability and the observed periodicity by species and area shows both similarities and differences with published literature.
Discard management needs to draw on scientific research and advice, usually supported by specific statistical modeling analysis. A wide range of statistical analysis methods were applied to fishery data in an attempt to distinguish factors that influence the species discard composition. While such approaches are important, they are still incomplete for disaggregating the economic and spatial-temporal factors for analyzing of this process and obtain a whole view of this issue. Our study aims to fill this gap by identifying, describing, and quantifying factors that influence discards of trawl fisheries using a multivariate approach based on five complementary aspects: “economic”, “vessel characteristics”, “spatial”, “temporal” and “environmental”. In addition, a spatial multi-criteria approach were used to investigate discard hot-spot areas using ecological criteria such as vulnerability and resilience of the discarded species. Using these ecological criteria will concentrate conservation efforts on the most relevant sites minimizing discards of a variety of potentially vulnerable species. This approach was applied to a case study of a multi-species demersal bottom trawl fisheries in north Spain, Cantabrian Sea (ICES area VIIIc). Results showed how spatial and economic factors highly affect species discard composition, identifying specific spatial-temporal discard hot-spots to be preferentially avoided by fishers. Mitigation measures for future fisheries management strategies should be implemented at multiple stages of the discarding process, both in the selection of the fishing grounds and the economic valorization of the discarded species.