Global patterns of marine mammal, seabird, and sea turtle bycatch reveal taxa-specific and cumulative megafauna hotspots.
ABSTRACT: Recent research on ocean health has found large predator abundance to be a key element of ocean condition. Fisheries can impact large predator abundance directly through targeted capture and indirectly through incidental capture of nontarget species or bycatch. However, measures of the global nature of bycatch are lacking for air-breathing megafauna. We fill this knowledge gap and present a synoptic global assessment of the distribution and intensity of bycatch of seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles based on empirical data from the three most commonly used types of fishing gears worldwide. We identify taxa-specific hotspots of bycatch intensity and find evidence of cumulative impacts across fishing fleets and gears. This global map of bycatch illustrates where data are particularly scarce--in coastal and small-scale fisheries and ocean regions that support developed industrial fisheries and millions of small-scale fishers--and identifies fishing areas where, given the evidence of cumulative hotspots across gear and taxa, traditional species or gear-specific bycatch management and mitigation efforts may be necessary but not sufficient. Given the global distribution of bycatch and the mitigation success achieved by some fleets, the reduction of air-breathing megafauna bycatch is both an urgent and achievable conservation priority.
Project description:Sustainability of commercial fisheries is best achieved when fishing gears are selective and have low impacts on bottom habitat. Pots (baited traps) are a fishing technology that typically has lower impacts than many other industrial gears. In this study we compared the efficiency of five models of pots (baited traps) designed to catch Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) for use in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)'s expanding cod fishery. We compared catch per unit effort (CPUE) and total lengths of cod across each pot type, as well as bycatch rates of each model. All pot types were successful at catching cod, but two models (the modified Newfoundland pot, and a four-entrance pot of our design) had highest CPUE. Specifically, we found that modifying Newfoundland pots increased their CPUE by 145% without a corresponding increase in bycatch. None of the pot types produced substantial amounts of bycatch. This study demonstrated that potting gear is an effective way to catch cod in NL, and that there is flexibility in which pot fishers can use, depending on the layout of their fishing vessel.
Project description:Fisheries bycatch has been identified as the greatest threat to marine mammals worldwide. Characterizing the impacts of bycatch on marine mammals is challenging because it is difficult to both observe and quantify, particularly in small-scale fisheries where data on fishing effort and marine mammal abundance and distribution are often limited. The lack of risk frameworks that can integrate and visualize existing data have hindered the ability to describe and quantify bycatch risk. Here, we describe the design of a new geographic information systems tool built specifically for the analysis of bycatch in small-scale fisheries, called Bycatch Risk Assessment (ByRA). Using marine mammals in Malaysia and Vietnam as a test case, we applied ByRA to assess the risks posed to Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and dugongs (Dugong dugon) by five small-scale fishing gear types (hook and line, nets, longlines, pots and traps, and trawls). ByRA leverages existing data on animal distributions, fisheries effort, and estimates of interaction rates by combining expert knowledge and spatial analyses of existing data to visualize and characterize bycatch risk. By identifying areas of bycatch concern while accounting for uncertainty using graphics, maps and summary tables, we demonstrate the importance of integrating available geospatial data in an accessible format that taps into local knowledge and can be corroborated by and communicated to stakeholders of data-limited fisheries. Our methodological approach aims to meet a critical need of fisheries managers: to identify emergent interaction patterns between fishing gears and marine mammals and support the development of management actions that can lead to sustainable fisheries and mitigate bycatch risk for species of conservation concern.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Although bycatch of industrial-scale fisheries can cause declines in migratory megafauna including seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, the impacts of small-scale fisheries have been largely overlooked. Small-scale fisheries occur in coastal waters worldwide, employing over 99% of the world's 51 million fishers. New telemetry data reveal that migratory megafauna frequent coastal habitats well within the range of small-scale fisheries, potentially producing high bycatch. These fisheries occur primarily in developing nations, and their documentation and management are limited or non-existent, precluding evaluation of their impacts on non-target megafauna.<h4>Principal findings/methodology</h4>30 North Pacific loggerhead turtles that we satellite-tracked from 1996-2005 ranged oceanwide, but juveniles spent 70% of their time at a high use area coincident with small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico (BCS). We assessed loggerhead bycatch mortality in this area by partnering with local fishers to 1) observe two small-scale fleets that operated closest to the high use area and 2) through shoreline surveys for discarded carcasses. Minimum annual bycatch mortality in just these two fleets at the high use area exceeded 1000 loggerheads year(-1), rivaling that of oceanwide industrial-scale fisheries, and threatening the persistence of this critically endangered population. As a result of fisher participation in this study and a bycatch awareness campaign, a consortium of local fishers and other citizens are working to eliminate their bycatch and to establish a national loggerhead refuge.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>Because of the overlap of ubiquitous small-scale fisheries with newly documented high-use areas in coastal waters worldwide, our case study suggests that small-scale fisheries may be among the greatest current threats to non-target megafauna. Future research is urgently needed to quantify small-scale fisheries bycatch worldwide. Localizing coastal high use areas and mitigating bycatch in partnership with small-scale fishers may provide a crucial solution toward ensuring the persistence of vulnerable megafauna.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Minimizing fishery bycatch threats might involve trade-offs between maintaining viable populations and economic benefits. Understanding these trade-offs can help managers reconcile conflicting goals. An example is a set of bycatch reduction measures for the Critically Endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus), in the Northern Gulf of California, Mexico. The vaquita is an endemic species threatened with extinction by artisanal net bycatch within its limited range; in this area fisheries are the chief source of economic productivity.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>We analyze trade-offs between conservation of the vaquita and fisheries, using an end-to-end Atlantis ecosystem model for the Northern Gulf of California. Atlantis is a spatially-explicit model intended as a strategic tool to test alternative management strategies. We simulated increasingly restrictive fisheries regulations contained in the vaquita conservation plan: implementing progressively larger spatial management areas that exclude gillnets, shrimp driftnets and introduce a fishing gear that has no vaquita bycatch. We found that only the most extensive spatial management scenarios recovered the vaquita population above the threshold necessary to downlist the species from Critically Endangered. The scenario that excludes existing net gear from the 2008 area of vaquita distribution led to moderate decrease in net present value (US$ 42 million) relative to the best-performing scenario and a two-fold increase in the abundance of adult vaquita over the course of 30 years.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>Extended spatial management resulted in the highest recovery of the vaquita population. The economic cost of proposed management actions was unequally divided between fishing fleets; the loss of value from finfish gillnet fisheries was never recovered. Our analysis shows that managers will have to confront difficult trade-offs between management scenarios for vaquita conservation.
Project description:Locally sustainable resource extraction activities, at times, transform into ecologically detrimental enterprises. Understanding such transitions is a primary challenge for conservation and management of many ecosystems. In marine systems, over-exploitation of small-scale fisheries creates problems such as reduced biodiversity and lower catches. However, long-term documentation of how governance and associated changes in fishing gears may have contributed to such declines is often lacking. Using fisher interviews, we characterized fishing gear dynamics over 60 years (1950-2010) in a coral reef ecosystem in the Philippines subject to changing fishing regulations. In aggregate fishers greatly diversified their use of fishing gears. However, most individual fishers used one or two gears at a time (mean number of fishing gears < 2 in all years). Individual fishing effort (days per year) was fairly steady over the study period, but cumulative fishing effort by all fishers increased 240%. In particular, we document large increases in total effort by fishers using nets and diving. Other fishing gears experienced less pronounced changes in total effort over time. Fishing intensified through escalating use of non-selective, active, and destructive fishing gears. We also found that policies promoting higher production over sustainability influenced the use of fishing gears, with changes in gear use persisting decades after those same policies were stopped. Our quantitative evidence shows dynamic changes in fishing gear use over time and indicates that gears used in contemporary small-scale fisheries impact oceans more than those used in earlier decades.
Project description:Human beings are the dominant top predator in the marine ecosystem. Throughout most of the global ocean this predation is carried out by industrial fishing vessels, that can now be observed in unprecedented detail via satellite monitoring of Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages. The spatial and temporal distribution of this fishing effort emerges from the coupled interaction of ecological and socio-economic drivers and can therefore yield insights on the dynamics of both the ecosystem and fishers. Here we analyze temporal variability of industrial fishing effort from 2015-2017 as recorded by global AIS coverage, and differentiated by fishing gear type. The strongest seasonal signal is a reduction of total deployed effort during the annual fishing moratorium on the numerically-dominant Chinese fleet, which occurs during boreal summer. An additional societally-controlled reduction of effort occurs during boreal winter holidays. After accounting for these societal controls, the total deployed effort is relatively invariant throughout the year for all gear types except squid jiggers and coastal purse seiners. Despite constant deployment levels, strong seasonal variability occurs in the spatial pattern of fishing effort for gears targeting motile pelagic species, including purse seiners, squid jiggers and longliners. Trawlers and fixed gears target bottom-associated coastal prey and show very little overall seasonality, although they exhibit more seasonal variation at locations that are further from port. Our results suggest that societal controls dominate the total deployment of fishing effort, while the behavior of pelagic fish, including seasonal migration and aggregation, is likely the most prominent driver of the spatial seasonal variations in global fishing effort.
Project description:The Mediterranean Sea is a biodiversity hotspot where intense fishing pressure is associated with high bycatch rates of protected species (sea turtles and cetaceans) and top predators (sharks). Since the conservation of these species has become a priority, fishery scientists are faced with the challenge of reducing incidental catch, which entails high rates of mortality. Among the species threatened by fishing activities, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is a charismatic species considered as "vulnerable" at the global scale. In the Mediterranean Sea trawl nets are the gears with the highest probability of catching protected species incidentally. A new flexible Turtle Excluder Device (TED) was tested for the first time on commercial bottom trawlers to assess its effectiveness in reducing bycatch in the Mediterranean Sea. Analysis of the total catches of the hauls made with and without the TED showed that the difference in terms of weight was not significant. The catch of the main commercial species showed similar rates without a significant loss of size (i.e. total length) with the exception of the largest anglerfish (Lophius spp.). The bycatch of control nets included mostly rays and sharks, but never turtles, although the authors learned from the crews of other vessels operating in the same areas at the time of the trials that they had caught some loggerhead turtles. Our study demonstrates that TED scan be adopted without significantly affecting commercial catch. This informs fishers and managers for a practical and effective means that may reduce the bycatch of threatened species in coastal Mediterranean demersal multispecies fisheries. The measures involving gear modifications require significant investment but they are technically feasible and are capable of improving the conservation prospects of these endangered species. Besides ensuring normal earnings, the TED induced a significant reduction of debris and litter in the codend, thus reducing catch sorting time and improving catch quality.
Project description:The general decline of seabird populations worldwide raises large concerns. Although multiple factors are interacting to cause the observed trends, increased mortality from incidental bycatch in fisheries has proven to be important for many species. However, the bulk of published knowledge is derived from longline fisheries, whereas bycatch in gillnet fisheries is less studied and even overlooked in some areas. We present seabird bycatch data from a 10-year time-series of fishery data from the large fleet of small-vessels fishing with gillnets along the Norwegian coast-a large area and fishery with no prior estimates of seabird bycatch. In general, we document high rates of incidental bycatch (averaging 0.0023 seabirds/net, or approximately 0.08 seabirds/fishing trip). This results in an estimated annual bycatch between 1580 and 11500 (95% CI) birds in this fishery. There was a surprisingly high percentage (43%) of surface-feeding seabirds in the bycatch, with northern fulmar being the most common species. Among the diving seabirds caught, common guillemot was most numerous. Our findings suggest that coastal gillnet fisheries represent a more general threat to a wider range of seabird populations, as opposed to longline fisheries where surface-feeding seabird species seem to dominate the bycatch. The bycatch estimates for the Norwegian gillnet-fishery varied in time, between areas, and with fishing depth and distance from the coast, but we found no clear trends in relation to the type of gillnets used. The results enabled us to identify important spatio-temporal trends in the seabird bycatch, which can allow for the development and implementation of more specific mitigation measures. While specific time closures might be an efficient option to reduce bycatch for diving seabirds, measures such as gear modification and reduction in release of wastewater during fishing operation are probably a more effective mitigation approach for reducing bycatch of surface-feeding seabirds.
Project description:Previous reconstructions of marine fishing fleets have aggregated data without regard to the artisanal and industrial sectors. Engine power has often been estimated from subsets of the developed world, leading to inflated results. We disaggregated data into three sectors, artisanal (unpowered/powered) and industrial, and reconstructed the evolution of the fleet and its fishing effort. We found that the global fishing fleet doubled between 1950 and 2015-from 1.7 to 3.7 million vessels. This has been driven by substantial expansion of the motorized fleet, particularly, of the powered-artisanal fleet. By 2015, 68% of the global fishing fleet was motorized. Although the global fleet is dominated by small powered vessels under 50 kW, they contribute only 27% of the global engine power, which has increased from 25 to 145 GW (combined powered-artisanal and industrial fleets). Alongside an expansion of the fleets, the effective catch per unit of effort (CPUE) has consistently decreased since 1950, showing the increasing pressure of fisheries on ocean resources. The effective CPUE of most countries in 2015 was a fifth of its 1950s value, which was compared with a global decline in abundance. There are signs, however, of stabilization and more effective management in recent years, with a reduction in fleet sizes in developed countries. Based on historical patterns and allowing for the slowing rate of expansion, 1 million more motorized vessels could join the global fleet by midcentury as developing countries continue to transition away from subsistence fisheries, challenging sustainable use of fisheries' resources.
Project description:Global fisheries landings data from a range of public sources was harmonised and mapped to 30-min spatial cells based on the distribution of the reported taxa and the fishing fleets involved. This data was extended to include the associated fishing gear used, as well as estimates of illegal, unregulated and unreported catch (IUU) and discards at sea. Expressed as catch rates, these results also separated small-scale fisheries from other fishing operations. The dataset covers 1950 to 2014 inclusive. Mapped catch allows study of the impacts of fisheries on habitats and fauna, on overlap with the diets of marine birds and mammals, and on the related use of fuels and release of greenhouse gases. The fine-scale spatial data can be aggregated to the exclusive economic zone claims of countries and will allow study of the value of landed marine products to their economies and food security, and to those of their trading partners.