NMFS Bycatch “Strategy” - No Relief for Marine Life for At Least Another Year | Oceana

NMFS Bycatch “Strategy” – No Relief for Marine Life for At Least Another Year

Press Release Date: October 6, 2009

Location: Washington


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

In response to a petition filed by Oceana more than a year ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) failed to take immediate steps to enforce existing laws that require reductions on the capture and killing of ocean fish and wildlife caught incidentally during fishing (referred to as bycatch or wasted catch). Instead of developing new rules and regulations to count, cap and control the millions of fish and thousands of marine mammals that needlessly die each year, NMFS just documented what they have done to comply with federal law and plan a review of the existing strategy.

“The NMFS bycatch planning strategy won’t save a single fish, sea turtle, bird or other marine mammals for at least another year if not longer, said Charlotte Gray, marine wildlife scientist for Oceana. “The needless killing of so many creatures is a moral outrage. NMFS has had legal obligations for years to control bycatch and despite a clear statement from the public asking for this, the agency is still just planning.”

Four federal laws — the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — require the U.S. government to reduce the bycatch of marine mammals, sea birds, endangered species, and fish.

In February, 2002, Oceana petitioned the federal government and galvanized 110,000 Americans to write NMFS demanding that they implement a program to count, cap, and control wasted catch. This is the largest number of citizens ever to comment formally on an ocean related issue. Public opinion surveys in California, Florida, and New Jersey indicate that more than 80 percent of voters are seriously concerned about the oceans and favor stronger U.S. laws prohibiting bad fishing practices.

The stakes are high for our world’s food supply. Twenty-five percent of the world’s fish catch – some 44 billion pounds of fish and thousands of ocean animals – are unintentionally caught and discarded, dead and dying, each year. Such wasted catch and other destructive fishing practices is a major reason why more than 70 percent of marine fisheries worldwide are fished to capacity or at unsustainable levels. Furthermore, fishing gear such as pelagic longlines, gillnets and trawl nets routinely trap and drown endangered and protected species such as marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and sharks.

“We need to act as quickly as possible to end this destructive practice,” said Gray. “We are disappointed that this strategy does not include activities that would improve the implementation of existing laws now.”

“We are considering what options are available to citizens to get a meaningful reduction in bycatch before it’s too late for our marine fish and wildlife,” said Sylvia Liu, senior attorney for Oceana. “We are not ruling anything out.”


Oceana is a non-profit international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans through policy advocacy, science, law and public education. Founded in 2001, Oceana’s constituency includes members and activists from more than 150 countries and territories who are committed to saving the world’s marine environment. In 2002, the American Oceans Campaign became part of Oceana’s international effort to protect ocean eco-systems. Oceana, headquartered in Washington, D.C., also maintains regional offices in Alaska, California and New England and is currently establishing offices in Latin America and Europe. For more information, please visit www.oceana.org.



More Information:

Oceana’s Bycatch Petition

Oceana’s Bycatch Report