Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, welcomes today’s release of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) long overdue U.S. National Bycatch Report. This report is an attempt to quantify the amount of bycatch or incidental catch of non-target fish and ocean wildlife taking place in U.S. commercial fisheries. The report defines bycatch as “discarded catch of any living marine resource and as unobserved mortality due to a direct encounter with fishing gear” for protected species. Using catch reporting data from 2005, including production and landing reports, logbooks and observer programs, NMFS was able to estimate the level of bycatch occurring in U.S. fisheries. In reaction, Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell released the following statement:
“Oceana welcomes the release of this long overdue U.S. National Bycatch Report, which compiles bycatch estimates for fish and ocean wildlife. Bycatch is a wasteful practice that discards unwanted marine life, often dead or dying, back into the ocean. Reducing bycatch has been a focus of Oceana’s fisheries work for almost a decade.
The total estimated bycatch for all U.S. commercial fisheries shows that one pound of fish is discarded for every six pounds that is brought to shore. The regional estimates of bycatch are even more eye opening. In the Southeast region alone, commercial fisheries threw away three pounds of fish for every pound that was landed. Additionally, overall bycatch estimates for ocean wildlife, included 1,887 marine mammals, 11,772 sea turtles and 7,699 sea birds.
Wasteful fishing practices hurt the health of the oceans. Bycatch should not be treated as the cost of doing business. Bycatch must be accounted for in fishery management and should count towards the total allowable catch of a species. Individual fisheries should have science-based annual catch limits on their target species as well as limits on bycatch. In many cases, one fishery’s bycatch species is another fishery’s target species. Reducing bycatch should be a priority for fishery managers nationwide.”