Last month, Oceana submitted a proposal aimed at reducing the amount of wasted catch in New England and Mid-Atlantic gillnet fisheries, which throw away 16 percent of their total catch every year. The Northeast gillnet fisheries were identified in Oceana’s Wasted Catch report as one of the nine most wasteful fisheries in the United States as a result of their bycatch.
“Improvement in this fishery is long overdue. Gillnets catch any and all fish and ocean wildlife that swims through, and many of these animals are left to drown, die and rot in the nets without ever being accounted for,” Oceana fisheries campaign manager Gib Brogan said in a news release.
Gillnets are an unselective method of fishing, catching anything that’s too big to fit through the small holes in the nets, including dolphins, porpoises, and seals. Under current regulations, some fishermen can use more than eight miles of netting at one time and these nets can be left in the water for weeks to months at a time.
Oceana recently sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the two regional Fishery Management Councils that oversee the Mid-Atlantic and New England gillnet fisheries, urging the councils to change gillnet use in the region. The suggested changes include reducing the net length, decreasing the amount of time gillnets are left in the water, and ensuring accurate monitoring of the fisheries, among others.
“There is no reason that thousands of dolphins and sea turtles should amount to collateral damage in these nets every year,” Brogan said. “If we want healthy and vibrant fisheries, we need to make changes to these wasteful and harmful fishing practices. Reducing the amount of waste in our nation’s fisheries not only prevents the needless deaths of thousands of animals, but helps maintain stable fish populations into the future.”
The New England Fishery Management Council is in the process of identifying its priorities for 2015 and is expected to finalize its plans in November when the Council meets in Newport, Rhode Island
Click here for more information on Oceana’s work to reduce bycatch.