Federal Government Takes Steps to Better Monitor Bycatch in Southeast and Gulf Fisheries | Oceana

Following Oceana’s recommendation to develop a bycatch—the incidental take of marine mammals, sea turtles, and other marine life in fisheries—reporting plan last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced last week that it will be taking steps to more accurately analyze the amount and type of wasted catch in Gulf of Mexico and Southeast region fisheries.

“To understand the full scope of wasted catch in our nation’s fisheries, fisheries managers and the public must have access to recent, accurate and precise reports of catch in every fishery,” Oceana fisheries program manager Gib Brogan said in a press release. “This announcement by NMFS is a good first step towards ultimately decreasing the amount of bycatch in our fisheries.”

Legally, every federally-managed fishery must have a standardized way to collect and report the amount of bycatch that occurs in the fishery. The fisheries managed by the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast Fishery Management Councils, however, do not currently have a plan to put this requirement in place. Now, the federal government is moving forward with a proposal to better address the amount of wasted catch in all of our nation’s fisheries.

In Oceana’s Wasted Catch report released last spring, the Southeast snapper-grouper longline fishery was highlighted as one of the most wasteful bycatch fisheries in the United States. Oceana estimates that it discards two-thirds of its catch every year. Additionally, the Southeast shrimp trawl fishery throws away 64 percent of its catch and is responsible for the death of thousands of sea turtles every year.

“We applaud NMFS for taking the first steps to get a better understanding of the amount of bycatch occurring in Gulf and Southeast fisheries, and we look forward to seeing these measures put to work to help restore ocean ecosystems,” Brogan said.

Oceana has worked to reduce bycatch on a fishery-by-fishery basis for over a decade, and urges for fishery managers to adopt the Oceana approach to reducing bycatch: count, cap, and control. Click here to learn more.