Billons of pounds of marine life are unintentionally caught and killed by indiscriminate fishing gear.
According to some estimates, billions of pounds of sea life are caught worldwide every year as bycatch. Some fisheries discard more fish at sea than what they bring to port. And, others injure and kill thousands of whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and sharks each year. Oceana campaigns worldwide to reduce bycatch.
Anything can be bycatch: the dolphins that are encircled to bring you canned tuna, the sea turtles caught to bring you shrimp, the flounder thrown overboard to put seared scallops on the menu, the endangered whales migrating thousands of miles only to become entangled for the sake of lobster bisque and the millions of pounds of halibut or cod that are wasted when fishermen have already reached their quota. Much of this captured wildlife is treated as waste, thrown overboard dead or dying.
Bycatch undermines successful fisheries management and wastes the ocean's living resources, while the destructive fishing gear that catches bycatch can destroy habitat. Reducing bycatch is a key component of Oceana’s efforts to save the oceans and feed the world, along with protecting habitat and reducing overfishing by setting responsible catch limits.
Reducing Bycatch in U.S. Waters
Tackling Bycatch in European Waters
What Are Bycatch and Discards?
Louisiana Agrees to Enforce Turtle Excluder Devices
What Oceana Does
Advocating for Cleaner Fishing Gear
Bycatch is caused by fishing gear that is unselective. This includes the mile-long and hundred-feet-high drift gillnets that snare — and often kill — sharks, whales, sea turtles and everything else that swims in its path, as well as 50-mile long fishing lines known as longlines that dangle thousands of baited hooks that attract and catch wildlife indiscriminately. Oceana campaigns to ban driftnets and to modify and adapt other fishing gear so they don’t catch and kill non-targeted fish and important and protected species like sharks, whales and sea turtles.
The Oceana Approach: Count, Cap and Control
In order for scientists to set sustainable fishing quotas, they must know what is being taken out of the worlds’ oceans. Oceana pushes for regulators to adopt the Oceana approach to reducing bycatch: count, cap and control. Currently, much of the worlds’ bycatch goes unreported — from a lack of observer coverage and from illegal practices — making it hard for scientists to know which species are being removed from the oceans. We need to count bycatch much more accurately so that we know exactly how many and what kinds of species are being caught as bycatch. Next, Oceana recommends that fisheries set and enforce strict limits, or caps, on the amount of bycatch allowed. Finally, we need to control and reduce bycatch by implementing better management and requiring more selective fishing gear.