The sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is the most common sea turtle in the Mediterranean, where incidental catches due to fishing activities are considered the main threat to its conservation. Over 50,000 capture events and likely over 10,000 deaths are estimated to occur in the Italian waters alone. However, current knowledge on the interaction of sea turtles with fishing gears and the implementation of mitigation measures are still poor to hinder the decline of turtle populations in the Mediterranean. In this basin, where fisheries are multispecies, multi-gears and multinational, making demersal fishing activities profitable while preserving sea turtles is a challenge. This study aimed to develop bycatch reducer devices (BRDs) and alternative fishing gears to mitigate the impact of demersal fishing gears on sea turtles: (a) hard and flexible turtle excluder devices (TEDs) were tested in bottom trawling to immediately exclude turtles from the net; (b) visual deterrents (ultraviolet LEDs) were used to illuminate set nets and to alter turtle visual cues, avoiding entanglement during depredation activity. The results showed the different devices did not affect the commercial catch, while bycatch reduction was instead evident. Thus, the study highlights that introducing mitigation measures to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the Mediterranean, where the bycatch of vulnerable species seems as a global issue, can be possible at least in certain areas and periods. Considering fishermen reticence to change the gear traditionally used, determining the optimal gear configuration to minimize commercial loss while reducing bycatch, is the main issue while introducing new technologies. Therefore, a global effort should be done to introduce BRDs in different areas and fisheries of the Mediterranean.
Ecological risk assessment (ERA), including Productivity-Susceptibility Analysis (PSA), is becoming increasingly used to assess the relative vulnerability of data-limited non-target species to the impacts by fishing. PSA was developed for the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) tuna purse-seine fishery to assess the vulnerability of incidentally-caught species for three set types, “dolphin sets”, “unassociated sets” and “floating-object sets”, during 2005–2013. Because of operational differences between these set types, susceptibility values were combined for each species across the three set types to produce an overall fleet-wide susceptibility estimate. Vulnerability was highest for elasmobranchs, namely the giant manta ray, bigeye and pelagic thresher sharks, smooth and scalloped hammerhead sharks, and silky shark. Billfishes, dolphins, other rays, ocean sunfish, and yellowfin and bigeye tunas were classified as moderately vulnerable while the remaining species, all teleosts, had the lowest vulnerability scores. This purse-seine fleet-wide PSA identified potentially vulnerable species that can be compared with PSAs for other fisheries operating in the EPO, once detailed catch information becomes available for those fisheries. Such information can assist managers with prioritising fishery- and species-specific research programsand/or mitigation measures.
Catch share management was implemented in the bottom trawl sector of the West Coast Groundfish fishery in 2011 to address a range of issues including high bycatch and discard rates. The catch share program was designed to remove the incentives to discard through full catch accounting, tradeable quotas, increased flexibility in fishing, and penalties for catch overages. We assess the effectiveness of the program in meeting its environmental objectives by comparing discard weights, proportions, and variability from 2004–2010 with 2011–2016. We analyzed these metrics for species managed using quota, including historically overfished stocks, as well as for non-quota species caught in the fishery. Discard amounts decreased over time for all species and declined to historic lows after the implementation of the program, remaining low through 2016 with much less inter-annual variability. Mean annual discards of two highly-targeted quota species, sablefish and Dover sole, showed the greatest decreases, falling by 97 and 86%, respectively. The discard proportion of overfished quota species fell by 50% on average. The unanticipated decline in discards of non-quota species as well as the decreased variability in discard amounts for all species indicate that the incentives produced by catch share management provided additional ecosystem benefits.
Although aquaculture sometimes lessens the negative effects of fishing by lowering the need to capture wild animals and plants, some aquaculture practices still require the exploitation of wild populations. A largely overlooked case is the use of wild populations to provide seed to sea farms. Mussel farming in Northwest Spain involve the capture of thousands of tons of young mussels (0.5–2 cm long) from the nearby rocky intertidal every year to supply floating rafts. Despite its volume, the impact of this activity on other sessile organisms remains unassessed. To fill this gap in our knowledge, we monthly monitored the sessile intertidal assemblage of five protected and six exploited sites during the closed season in 2016 following a nested sampling plan. Like the by-catch typical of other fisheries, harvesting young mussels for aquaculture was detrimental to the abundance and diversity of the associated sessile assemblage not directly targeted by this activity. Coverage and richness were also significantly lowered by the exploitation of mussel seed, and the community structure of protected and exploited sites was significantly different. These differences continued until the next open season, suggesting that the closed season was too short for the recovery of the associated non-target sessile assemblage. Given the size of the local mussel industry, the incomplete recovery along the closed season implies that mussel aquaculture must be putting a sustained pressure on a sizeable portion of the rocky intertidal of Northwest Spain.
Extreme climatic events are expected to become more frequent under current conditions of increasing global temperatures and climate variability. A key challenge of fisheries management is understanding and planning for the effect of anomalous oceanic conditions on the distributions of protected species and their interactions with fishing gear. Atypical marine states can cause non-target species to shift outside of their normal distribution patterns, leading to unwanted bycatch events that threaten fisheries sustainability. Environmental indicators can serve as early warning signals that allow for proactive management responses before significant bycatch occurs. Marine heatwaves in the Pacific have caused shifts in the distributions of endangered loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), increasing overlap with California’s Drift Gillnet fishery and thereby the risk of turtle bycatch events. To reduce bycatch, a fishery closure offshore of Southern California – The Loggerhead Conservation Area – Is enacted when an El Niño event has been declared and local sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are warmer than normal. However, this regulation was based on qualitative assessment of bycatch that occurred during past El Niño events, and no explicit threshold for SST anomalies was defined. Additionally, closures enacted under the current regulation rely on structured expert decision-making. Providing a quantitative indicator could help to refine future decisions. We developed and evaluated potential new indicators to guide the Loggerhead Conservation Area closure timing based on thermal indices in three different regions: the equatorial Pacific, regional areas offshore of Southern California, and temperate pelagic areas off the US west coast. Our objectives were to: 1) quantify thermal indicators and their respective thresholds to guide closure timing, and 2) hindcast closure scenarios based on these indicator thresholds to evaluate efficacy in terms of opportunity costs to fishers and ability to avoid turtle interactions. The best indicator in terms of avoiding historical turtle interactions while minimizing opportunity cost to fishers was a six-month average local SST anomaly indicator with closures enacted above a threshold of 0.77 °C. This result can improve upon the current closure guidelines by providing a quantified and spatially-explicit indicator and threshold to supplement the structured decision-making process. Our analysis demonstrates a novel approach to developing fisheries management strategies for species with a paucity of data. Issues with data comprehensiveness are frequently present in fisheries management exercises, and precautionary approaches are needed to allow adherence with legislation while considering the best available science.
Novel approaches are required to estimate the bycatch associated with artisanal fisheries. Foremost among these is the use of fisher knowledge (FK). An interview survey was conducted in ports along 2631 km of the Peruvian coast to assess the spatial patterns and bycatch rates of marine megafauna of the artisanal longline fishery and its relation with vessel characteristics and fishing operations. The survey allowed the assessment of 18% of the fleet, while only 1% of the Peruvian longline fleet has been monitored with on board observations in the past. The results indicate that big vessels (higher capacity, longline length and number of hooks) that travel long distances (average distance to coast: 123 nm) mainly catch turtles and show a small amount of seabird bycatches in north‐central Peru. Small vessels especially impact turtles in southern Peru and near the coast (63 nm on average). Contrary to previously published information, which indicates a low level of cetacean bycatch in this fishery, a group of fishers reported more than 1000 cetaceans were incidentally captured in 2009. Using FK allowed to integrate different sources of information and scale the implications of artisanal fisheries in terms of bycatch. FK could further be used to help managers deal with the uncertainties in the dynamics of these generally data‐ poor social‐ecological systems.
Gear selectivity and discards are important issues related to fisheries management but separately modelled. This work examines for the first time the overall size-selection pattern on the total amount of individuals of a species entering the trawl codend. An innovative approach was used based on modelling the escapement through the codend in the sea and the subsequently selection process by the fisher on the deck of the fishing vessel resulting into the discards and landings. Three different trawl codends and three species were investigated in the case study conducted. A dual sequential model accounting for both gear size-selectivity and the subsequent fisher-size-selectivity was applied, under the hypothesis that a fish entering the codend can follow a multinomial distribution with three probabilities, the escape, the discard and the landing probability, respectively. The model described the escape probability through the gear and the landing probability by the fisher as S-shaped curves leading to a bell-shaped curve for the discard probability affected by both gear and fisher selection. The model described well the experimental data in all cases. Sampling scheme of three compartments proved adequate. The model provides at the same time selectivity and discards parameters useful in fisheries management.
Derelict fishing gear is a known stressor to rockfish populations in the Washington waters of the Salish Sea, including two species currently federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. In Washington and British Columbia, rockfish bycatch in actively fished (non-derelict) prawn traps has been documented in spot prawn test fisheries conducted by state and provincial government, and both live and dead rockfish have been found in derelict prawn traps encountered during derelict fishing gear removal operations in Washington. This study calculates rockfish bycatch rates in actively fishing prawn traps and provides preliminary trap loss rates for both commercial and recreational fisheries. Rockfish bycatch rates were determined through analysis of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Spot Prawn Test Fishery Data collected from 2004 to 2013. Data from WDFW creel surveys were used to update preliminary prawn trap loss rates. Interviews with WDFW marine enforcement officers were conducted to estimate the number of lost traps that are recovered before becoming derelict. The overall rockfish catch rates in Washington waters of the Salish Sea were 0.023 rockfish per trap drop, with considerable spatial and temporal variability. The lowest catch rates were consistently seen in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands and North Puget Sound); while the highest catch rates were seen in Marine Area 11 (south-central Puget Sound). The trap loss rate estimated for the recreational fishery is 2.33% of all traps fished. We estimate that over the years 2012 and 2013 an average of 653 recreational prawn traps became derelict each year. The accumulation of derelict prawn traps has a mostly unknown effect on benthic habitats of Puget Sound, which warrants additional research. While rockfish bycatch and prawn trap loss rates reported here are low, our findings support evaluating methods to reduce rockfish encounters with prawn traps.
Sharks and rays are often caught as bycatch by commercial fisheries, and high incidences of bycatch are partially to blame for the declines in many populations of elasmobranchs. In an effort to reduce rates of bycatch, researchers have tested various deterrents that could benefit fisheries. Permanent magnets are one promising form of bycatch reduction device, yet their efficacy has only been tested for hook-and-line fisheries with variable results. Here, we examined the potential benefits of permanent magnets on an ocean fish trap fishery targeting snapper (Pagrus auratus) where more than 10% of the total catch is comprised of unwanted elasmobranchs and the presence of elasmobranchs reduces the catch of target species. Over 1000 fish traps were deployed in a fishery-dependent survey in New South Wales, Australia. Standardised catch rates indicate that the incorporation of magnets into fish traps significantly reduced incidences of elasmobranch bycatch (mainly Brachaelurus waddi) by over a third, while increasing the amount of target fish caught by an equivalent amount. Together these results suggest that magnets can be used as an effective bycatch reduction device that reduces incidences of elasmobranch bycatch while increasing the profitability of fish traps for fishermen. Future studies should aim to replicate these results in areas where different species of elasmobranchs occur.
Incidental catch of nontarget species (bycatch) is a major barrier to ecological and economic sustainability in marine capture fisheries. Key to mitigating bycatch is an understanding of the habitat requirements of target and nontarget species and the influence of heterogeneity and variability in the dynamic marine environment. While patterns of overlap among marine capture fisheries and habitats of a taxonomically diverse range of marine vertebrates have been reported, a mechanistic understanding of the real-time physical drivers of bycatch events is lacking. Moving from describing patterns toward understanding processes, we apply a Lagrangian analysis to a high-resolution ocean model output to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that drive fisheries interactions. We find that the likelihood of marine megafauna bycatch is intensified in attracting Lagrangian coherent structures associated with submesoscale and mesoscale filaments, fronts, and eddies. These results highlight how the real-time tracking of dynamic structures in the oceans can support fisheries sustainability and advance ecosystem-based management.