Bird scaring lines (BSLs) protect longline fishing gear from seabird attacks, save bait, reduce incidental seabird mortality and are the most commonly prescribed seabird bycatch mitigation measure worldwide. We collaborated with fishermen to assess the efficacy of applying BSL regulations from the demersal longline sablefish fishery in Alaska to a similar fishery along the U.S West Coast. In contrast to Alaska, some U.S. West Coast vessels use floats along the line to keep hooks off the seafloor, where scavengers degrade the bait and the target catch. Our results confirmed that BSL regulations from Alaska were sufficient to protect baits from bird attacks on longlines without floats, but not baits on longlines with floats. Longlines with floats sank below the reach of albatrosses (2 m depth) at a distance astern (157.7 m ± 44.8 95% CI) that was 2.3 times farther than longlines without floats (68.8 m ± 37.8 95% CI). The floated longline distance was well beyond the protection afforded by BSLs, which is approximately 40 m of aerial extent. Black-footed albatross attacked floated longlines at rates ten times more (2.7 attacks/1000 hooks, 0.48–4.45 95%CI) than longlines without floats (0.20 attacks/1000 hooks, 0.01–0.36 95% CI). Retrospective analysis of NOAA Fisheries Groundfish Observer Program data suggested that seabird bycatch occurs in a few sablefish longline fishing sectors and a minority of vessels, but is not confined to larger vessels. Analysis also confirmed fishermen testimonials that night setting reduced albatross bycatch by an order of magnitude compared to daytime setting, without reducing target catch. Night setting could be an effective albatross bycatch prevention practice if applied to the U.S. West Coast sablefish longline fishery and provide a practical alternative for vessels that elect to use floated longlines. These results highlight the importance of understanding region-specific longline gear modifications to identify effective bycatch reduction tools and the value of working collaboratively with fishermen to craft solutions.
Serial depletions and the use of indiscriminate gears have led to increased fishing pressure on many previously untargeted species. A largely unregulated global extraction of seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) has emerged, of which Vietnam is one of the main sources. Quantifying this extraction is a major empirical and enforcement challenge. Using catch landings surveys of small-scale fishing boats, we determined the fishing pressure on seahorse populations around Phu Quoc Island – a major source of seahorses in Vietnam’s trade – from April to July 2014. We focused on two fishing methods, bottom trawling and compressor diving, that either targeted seahorses or caught them incidentally along with a multitude of other species. The seahorse catch consisted of three species – H. kuda, H. spinosissimus and H. trimaculatus – with relative proportions varying by gear type and fishing ground. Fishers that targeted seahorses caught mean rates of 23 and 32 seahorses per boat per day by bottom trawling and diving, respectively. Trawls and divers that did not target seahorses caught mean rates of 1 and 3 seahorses per day respectively, and caught higher proportions of juvenile seahorses. The total catch from the island was approximately 127,000–269,000 seahorses per year from a fleet of 124 trawl boats and 46 compressor diver vessels. This is up to four times higher than the catch of similarly sized fisheries that obtain seahorses and is likely placing high pressure on local seahorse populations. Our research emphasizes the need to monitor these fisheries and develop effective management efforts for sustainable seahorse populations.
Management of the diverse fisheries of the world has had mixed success. While managing single species in data-rich environments has been largely effective, perhaps the greatest challenge facing fishery managers is how to deal with mixed stocks of fish with a range of life histories that reside in the same location. Because many fishing gears are nonselective, and the costs of making gear selective can be high, a particular problem is bycatch of weak stocks. This problem is most severe when the weak stock is long-lived and has low fecundity and thus requires a very long recovery time once overfished. We investigate the role that marine reserves might play in solving this challenging and ubiquitous problem in ecosystem-based management. Evidence for marine reserves’ potential to manage fisheries in an ecosystem context has been mixed, so we develop a heuristic strategic mathematical model to obtain general conclusions about the merits of managing multispecies fisheries by using reserves relative to managing them with nonspatial approaches. We show that for many fisheries, yields of strong stocks can be increased, and persistence of weak stocks can be ensured, by using marine reserves rather than by using traditional nonspatial approaches alone. Thus, reserves have a distinct advantage as a management tool in many of the most critical multispecies settings. We also show how the West Coast groundfish fishery of the United States meets these conditions, suggesting that management by reserves may be a superior option in that case.
Fatal entanglements in fishing gear threaten marine mammal populations worldwide. The management of entanglements of large whales, such as the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), with commercial fisheries, is a challenge given the species’ small population size, economic consequences of regulations, and the general lack of data on entanglements. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) requires development of programs to limit marine mammal entanglement in commercial fishing gear. Following a retrospective look at implementing aspects of the MMPA, a set of guiding principles were developed with associated best practices useful in reducing fatal large whale entanglement in fishing gear. Among these are: 1) involve stakeholders early in the decision making process; 2) establish a transparent management strategy that includes critical needs to guide research; 3) use a variety of tools such as an established process for receiving new information and ideas; and 4) incorporate adaptive management which considers the constraints of dynamic (rapid) changes to some fixed fishing gear. Efforts to reduce worldwide marine mammal bycatch will typically occur in a data-limited environment as experienced with U.S. Atlantic large whale entanglements. The guiding principles will remain as key tools for reducing large whale bycatch in fisheries as they build upon common practices. These insights developed over two decades of management can potentially help others to address similar bycatch problems.
Reducing the capture of small fish, discards, and by-catch is a primary concern of fisheries mangers that propose to maintain high yields, species diversity, and associated ecosystem functions. Modified fishing gear is one of the primary ways to reduce by-catch and capture of small fish. The outcomes of gear modification may depend on competition with other gears using similar fishing grounds and resources and the subsequent adoption or defection of fishers using modified gears. We evaluated the adoption, size, catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE), yield, and income responses among gears in a coral reef fishery where a 3-cm escape gap was introduced into traditional traps. The size of fish increased in the modified traps but the catch of smaller fish increased among the other competing gears. Additionally, there was no change in the overall CPUE, yields, or per area incomes but rather redistributions of yield benefits towards the competing gears. For example, estimated incomes of fishers that adopted the traps remained unchanged but increased for net and spear fishers. Fishers using escape-gap traps had a high proportion of income from larger fish, which may have led to a perception of benefits, high status, and no defections. The less polarizing neutral-win rather than a strong loss-win tradeoff outcome may explain the full adoption of escape-gap traps 3 years after their introduction. Trap fishers showed an interest in negotiating other management improvements, such as increased mesh sizes for nets, which could ultimately lead to catalyzing community-level decisions that would increase their own profits.
Fish discards represent a large share of harvested biomass in shrimp fisheries. The aim of this paper is to propose a methodology for valuing discards of both commercial and non-commercial fish species discarded in the Gulf of California shrimp fishery, by estimating the monetary value of forgone fish biomass. The value of commercial fish species was carried out by using growth and population models, in order to simulate the biomass that, if left in the ocean instead of being harvested at Age 0, could reach an optimal fishing size. Using deflated ex-vessel prices, the present value of commercial species hypothetically harvested at an optimal age, was computed. The value of non-commercial fish species represented the forgone benefits of not using discarded biomass for producing fishmeal. Hence, the estimated value of fish diversity discarded in trawling operations in 2013 would range between USD 60.80 million and USD 103.4 million. This estimate is one of the first attempts to give an economic value to both commercial and non-commercial discarded fish biomass. Hopefully, the methodology here proposed will serve as inspiration for further research in economic valuation of marine biodiversity.
As part of the global marine fisheries catch reconstruction project conducted by the Sea Around Usover the last decade, estimates were derived for discards in all major fisheries in the world. The reconstruction process derives conservative but non-zero time-series estimates for every fisheries component known to exist, and relies on a wide variety of data and information sources and on conservative assumptions to ensure comprehensive and complete time-series coverage. Globally, estimated discards increased from under 5 million t/year (t = 1,000 kg) in the early 1950s to a peak of 18.8 million t in 1989, and gradually declined thereafter to levels of the late 1950s of less than 10 million t/year. Thus, estimated discards represented between 10% and 20% of total reconstructed catches (reported landings + unreported landings + unreported discards) per year up to the year 2000, after which estimated discards accounted for slightly less than 10% of total annual catches. Most discards were generated by industrial (i.e. large-scale) fisheries. Discarding occurred predominantly in northern Atlantic waters in the earlier decades (1950s–1980s), after which discarding off the West Coast of Africa dominated. More recently, fleets operating in Northwest Pacific and Western Central Pacific waters generated the most discards. In most areas, discards consist essentially of marketable taxa, suggesting a combination of poor fishing practices and poor management procedures is largely responsible for the waste discarding represents. This is important in an era of increasing food security and human nutritional health concerns, especially in developing countries.
Small-scale fisheries are responsible for high numbers of animals caught as bycatch, such as turtles, cetaceans, and seals. Bycatch and its associated mortality is a major conservation challenge for these species and is considered undesirable by fishermen. To gain insights on the impact of bycatch on small-scale fishermen and put it in context with other financial and environmental challenges they face, we conducted questionnaire-based interviews on fishermen working on Crete, Greece. We investigated fishermen's perceptions of sea turtle and other protected species interactions, and the impacts of such interactions on their profession and livelihoods. Our results indicate a connection between declining fish stocks, related increased fishing effort, and reported increased frequency of interactions between fishermen and sea turtles. Respondents believed that their livelihoods were endangered by industrial fishing and environmental problems, but thought that combined interactions with turtles and other marine megafauna species were a larger problem. Responses suggested that extending compensation to fishermen may be a good conservation intervention. Small-scale fishermen hold a wealth of knowledge about the marine environment and its resources. This may be of help to researchers and policy makers as it could be used to achieve a better managed, sustainable fishery. Including small-scale fishermen in the process of developing regulations will both enhance those regulations and increase compliance with them.
Unintentional mortality of higher trophic-level species in commercial fisheries (bycatch) represents a major conservation concern as it may influence the long-term persistence of populations. An increasingly common strategy to mitigate bycatch of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), a small and protected marine top predator, involves the use of pingers (acoustic alarms that emit underwater noise) and time-area fishing closures. Although these mitigation measures can reduce harbor porpoise bycatch in gillnet fisheries considerably, inference about the long-term population-level consequences is currently lacking. We developed a spatially explicit individual-based simulation model (IBM) with the aim to evaluate the effectiveness of these two bycatch mitigation measures. We quantified both the direct positive effects (i.e., reduced bycatch) and any indirect negative effects (i.e., reduced foraging efficiency) on the population size using the inner Danish waters as a biological system. The model incorporated empirical data on gillnet fishing effort and noise avoidance behavior by free-ranging harbor porpoises exposed to randomized high-frequency (20- to 160-kHz) pinger signals. The IBM simulations revealed a synergistic relationship between the implementation of time-area fishing closures and pinger deployment. Time-area fishing closures reduced bycatch rates substantially but not completely. In contrast, widespread pinger deployment resulted in total mitigation of bycatch but frequent and recurrent noise avoidance behavior in high-quality foraging habitat negatively affected individual survival and the total population size. When both bycatch mitigation measures were implemented simultaneously, the negative impact of pinger noise-induced sub-lethal behavioral effects on the population was largely eliminated with a positive effect on the population size that was larger than when the mitigation measures were used independently. Our study highlights that conservationists and policy makers need to consider and balance both the direct and indirect effects of harbor porpoise bycatch mitigation measures before enforcing their widespread implementation. Individual-based simulation models, such as the one presented here, offer an efficient and dynamic framework to evaluate the impact of human activities on the long-term survival of marine populations and can serve as a basis to design adaptive management strategies that satisfy both ecological and socioeconomic demands on marine ecosystems.
Bycatch of marine fauna by small-scale (artisanal) fisheries is an important anthropogenic mortality source to several species of cetaceans, including humpback whales and odontocetes, in Ecuador's marine waters. Long-term monitoring actions and varied conservation efforts have been conducted by non-governmental organizations along the Ecuadorian coast, pointing toward the need for a concerted mitigation plan and actions to hamper cetaceans’ bycatch. Nevertheless, little has currently been done by the government and regional authorities to address marine mammal interactions with fisheries in eastern Pacific Ocean artisanal fisheries. This study provides a review of Ecuador's current status concerning cetacean bycatch, and explores the strengths and weaknesses of past and current programs aiming to tackle the challenges of bycatch mitigation. To bolster our appraisal of the policies, a synthesis of fishers’ perceptions of the bycatch problem is presented in concert with recommendations for fostering fishing community-based conservation practices integrated with policies to mitigate cetacean bycatch. Our appraisal, based upon the existing literature, indicates a situation of increasing urgency. Taking into consideration the fishers’ perceptions and attitudes, fisheries governance in Ecuador should draw inspiration from a truly bottom-up, participatory framework based on stakeholder engagement processes; if it is based on a top-down, regulatory approach, it is less likely to succeed. To carry out this process, a community-based conservation programs to provide conditions for empowering fishing communities is recommend. This would serve as an initial governance framework for fishery policy for conserving marine mammals while maximizing the economic benefits from sustainable small-scale fisheries in Ecuador.