Bycatch - So what's the answer?
Inspiring innovations in fishing gear
The competition has now been held four times, in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. The prize money has grown from a pool of US$35,000 to US$50,000, and has attracted a wide variety of ideas from countries all over the world. The competition judges look for practical, cost-effective and innovative designs that reduce the incidental catch and mortality of marine turtles, cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), non-target fish, and other non-target species in fishing gear such as nets and longlines.
The four competitions held so far have produced some exciting designs. In 2005, the grand prize was awarded to a simple mechanism to set baited hooks on the longline at depths below 100m, in order to minimize bycatch of marine turtles by Pacific island tuna longline fishers. The invention is based on the observation that turtles, as well as sharks and other non-target species, are often caught on hooks above 100m, while tuna are caught on hooks deeper than 100m. This idea is now being trialed by NOAA Fisheries in U.S. waters.
In 2006, the grand prize was awarded to a concept that used magnets to reduce the bycatch of sharks on longlines. Almost 20% of shark species are threatened with extinction, primarily as a result of bycatch on longlines. Many species of sharks are sensitive to, and can be repelled by magnetic fields. It was the use of a unique biology with a novel approach to addressing a global problem that resulted in the win for this idea.
The grand prize winning entry in 2007, was a net called The Eliminator, designed to reduce the bycatch of cod, whilst still allowing for the capture of species such as haddock. The team of scientists, fishermen, and a net maker utilized the behavioral tendency of haddock to swim upwards when captured to help design the net. It has attracted interest from other countries where the bycatch of cod is a substantial concern
WWF is now working with partners to test, refine, and implement the winning ideas.
In 2009, the grand prize was awarded to a team of inventors for a device called "The Underwater Baited Hook". This is a device designed to reduce or even eliminate the bycatch of seabirds on longlines. It is a stern-mounted, hydraulically driven device that delivers baited hooks underwater, below vessel turbulence, in a method much different from setting baits on the waters surface.
Because it minimizes drag caused by devices that remain underwater while setting, it is considered the most fuel-efficient method of delivering baited hooks at required depths.
Implementing new fishing gear
- Circle hooks: WWF is working with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and other partners to introduce a new type of hook in eastern Pacific longline fisheries that reduces marine turtle deaths by as much as 90 per cent without adversely affecting catches of swordfish and tuna. The new "circle" hooks are much less likely to be swallowed by turtles than traditional J-shaped hooks, which cause suffocation or internal bleeding when swallowed. Circle hooks are also easier to unhook from a snagged animal. Mustad, the world's largest fishing hook manufacturer based in Norway, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have donated over 250,000 circle hooks to WWF for trials in the East and West Pacific Ocean. WWF is also helping with the testing of different types of fish bait, the use of de-hookers, and training in turtle release techniques in these fisheries.
- Turtle excluder devices (TEDs): WWF assisted in initial TED trials in Mozambique, and in 2003 helped make their use compulsory in the country's shrimp trawl fleet. TEDs are metal grids that allow shrimp to pass into the main part of the net, but allow up to 97 per cent of marine turtles to escape with only a minimal reduction in shrimp catch. As well as saving the lives of up to 5,000 marine turtles per year, the use of TEDs will allow Mozambican fishers to sell their shrimp to the US market.
WWF also supports other groups that similarly work with fisheries to test and implement new types of fishing gear, such as SeaNet (Australia), Southern Seabird Solutions (Southern Ocean), and the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme (AIDCP; Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean).
A comprehensive approach
- reducing overcapacity of fishing fleets and reforming subsidies that lead to overcapacity
- strengthening legislation, treaties, and agreements on bycatch, and
- raising consumer awareness about sustainably caught fish.
- promoting ecosystem-based management of fisheries
For example as part of our work on sustainable fisheries, we promote temporal and spatial fishing management regimes that reduce bycatch. We also promote Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of sustainable fisheries, which requires a management framework for fisheries to reduce bycatch and other ecological impacts of fishing. Our comprehensive approach particularly focuses on priority species, fisheries, and fish populations affected by bycatch.