Reducing Bycatch - A Complex Challenge for Commercial Fisheries
Approximately one ton of bycatch is discarded for every 4 tons of target fish landed.
For over 25 years NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), along with regional fishery management councils, has been conducting research, implementing observer programs, and taking numerous regulatory actions to monitor and reduce bycatch. Problems with bycatch include prolonging the recovery of overfished stocks, mortality of animals on the Endangered Species Act list of threatened and endangered species, and economic losses to fishermen due to bait loss, diminished catch of target species, damaged fishing gear, and lost time removing non-target animals from fishing gear, to only name a few.
Bycatch can be reduced primarily through a combination of switching to more selective fishing gear and methods, and reducing or changing fishing effort (in time or space). It may also be possible to increase the utilization of some finfish bycatch, in which case it becomes a harvested resource rather than a wasted discard. The following video provides an overview of the steps being taken to minimize bycatch off the coast of New England.
For further information:
NOAA FishWatch: U.S. Seafood Facts
Fishing Communities of the United States, 2006
National Marine Fisheries Service
NOAA Essential Fish Habitat Mapper