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Sea turtle by-catch. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Reducing bycatch remains top issue, assures NOAA

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Thursday, March 27, 2014, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assures that it is strongly committed to reducing bycatch in US fisheries. To achieve this goal, the federal agency actively monitors bycatch levels through fisheries observers and electronic technologies and also works directly with fishermen to develop selective fishing gears and practices to minimize bycatch.

After Oceana released a report exposing nine of the "dirtiest" fisheries in the United States, which  combined throw away almost half of what they catch and are responsible for more than 50 per cent of all reported bycatch in the US, according to the NGO, Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator NOAA Fisheries, issued a statement defending their bycatch practices.

Sobeck highlighted that NOAA implements regulations with regional fishery management councils as well as other stakeholders to minimize bycatch and reduce protected species interactions with fishing gear, and that NOAA Fisheries must carry out observer programmes in each of its regions.

She emphasized that the agency is, and will continue to be, proactive in the protection and conservation of marine species such as dolphins and sea turtles. For example, it currently manages seven marine mammal take reduction teams, which recommend bycatch reduction measures for over 30 marine mammal stocks in more than 25 commercial fisheries.

NOAA evaluates these recommendations and implements regulatory requirements to achieve rigorous bycatch reduction goals as set by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In addition, in 2012 NOAA’s observer programmes employed 974 observers in 47 fisheries nationwide, with over 83,000 sea days observed.

According to the Sobeck, some examples of the agency's success in reducing bycatch in US fisheries include:

  • Alaska longline fishing and seabird numbers down by 50 per cent due to streamer lines;
  • The California drift gillnet fishery has completely eliminated beaked whale bycatch in the fishery based on NOAA Fisheries requirements to use pingers (acoustic harassment devices) as part of the fishery;
  • In the West Coast groundfish bottom trawl fishery, bycatch made up 20 per cent of total catch in 2010, down from 34 per cent in 2005.

Related article:

- New campaign to stop bycatch launched by Oceana



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