Bycatch: What Oceana Does
Oceana is calling on the federal government to address bycatch as is required under existing law and immediately implement the following three critical measures to end wasteful fishing practices: count every fish, bird and animal that is caught, including all bycatch; cap those catches at a level that ensures sustainability of the species and the ecosystem; and control the fishing activities to ensure the cap is enforced.
Each fishery should have human observers or mechanical video systems to record bycatch levels. On-board fishery observation is critical to obtaining accurate scientific data about the scope and magnitude of bycatch.
Fisheries managers should set real limits, or hard caps, on the catch of marine life, including fish, marine mammals, sea birds and endangered species. The following are Oceana's recommendations of how these caps should be determined.
Commercially targeted species
Scientific advisory bodies should develop hard limits for commercially targeted species by applying precautionary fishing mortality rates to the most current population assessment or biomass estimate.
Fishery managers should determine the proportion of total takes for which each fishery is responsible and then allocate that proportion of the potential biological removal (PBR) to that specific fishery, so long as the total allocated number does not exceed PBR.
Endangered and threatened species
For fisheries that are the subject of biological opinions, the incidental take limit should be the fisheries’ cap for the species in question, so long as the total allocated number does not exceed a level that will jeopardize the continued existence of the species or limit recovery.
For non-target species or other species identified as necessitating a cap, fishery managers should examine available data and either set a precautionary cap or collect observer data to determine appropriate levels of fishing mortality.
Fishing should not be allowed to occur in fisheries that do not have monitoring for bycatch and relevant management plans. Hard caps on fishing mortality must be enforced. When the caps are reached, fishing should stop for the given fishery and for the time period to which the cap applies. Cleaner fishing should be rewarded by shifting fishing opportunities to sectors of a fishery that use gear with less bycatch.
There are other proven ways to reduce bycatch. Over the past several decades, managers, scientists and the fishing industry have identified strategies to avoid and reduce bycatch. These strategies include gear improvements, changes to fishing practices and time/area closures.