Out on the water, fishermen are notorious for both catching non-target fish and for entangling or killing many other marine animals, including dolphins, seals, whales, and sea turtles. Known as “bycatch,” these victims usually end up dead and thrown back overboard. The severity of the bycatch problem around the world has been uncertain, until now, because it can be difficult to gather data about just how many animals are caught as bycatch
Recently, notable marine scientists from around the world joined forces to study patterns in the capture of marine mammals, sea birds, and sea turtles in fishing activities in the world’s oceans.
By overlaying all known records of bycatch injuries and deaths, the researchers were able to identify bycatch hotspots. They found that bycatch is highest when fishermen use three types of fishing gear: gillnets, longlines, and trawls. They also discovered that sea turtles were most frequently captured in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, eastern Pacific Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea, and that there are still regions where data don’t exist, even though we know significant bycatch occurs there.
As a result of their research, these scientists have called for “international action to effectively reduce bycatch in high-seas and coastal waters.”
We couldn’t agree more. These levels of injury and death are unacceptable and harm marine species and ecosystems. Fisheries must take precautions by using measures that have been proven effective in reducing bycatch, like turtle excluder devices, and must comply with existing laws designed to minimize impacts on threatened and endangered species. The United States government must also continue to implement international provisions of domestic laws that promote the evaluation and certification of countries that do not conduct illegal fishing or unnecessarily harm wildlife.
This new science exposing global bycatch hotspots will help focus attention on saving lives where it is needed most. That action starts with you! Go to our website to learn more about what you can do to reduce bycatch in the U.S.