Brian SkerryWASTED CATCH: UNSOLVED PROBLEMS IN U.S. FISHERIESAuthors: Amanda Keledjian, Gib Brogan, Beth Lowell, Jon Warrenchuk,Ben Enticknap, Geoff Shester, Michael Hirshfield and Dominique Cano-StoccoCORRECTION: This report referenced a bycatch rate of 40% as determined by Davies et al. 2009, however thatcalculation used a broader definition of bycatch than is standard. According to bycatch as defined in this reportand elsewhere, the most recent analyses show a rate of approximately 10% (Zeller et al. 2017; FAO 2018).
ACCORDING TO SOMEESTIMATES, GLOBALBYCATCH MAY AMOUNTTO 40 PERCENT OF THEWORLD’S CATCH,TOTALING 63 BILLIONPOUNDS PER YEARCORRECTION: This report referenced a bycatch rate of 40% asdetermined by Davies et al. 2009, however that calculation used abroader definition of bycatch than is standard. According tobycatch as defined in this report and elsewhere, the most recentanalyses show a rate of approximately 10% (Zeller et al. 2017;FAO 2018).
CONTENTS05 Executive Summary06 Quick Facts06 What Is Bycatch?08 Bycatch Is An Undocumented Problem10 Bycatch Occurs Every Day In The U.S.15 Notable Progress, But No Solution26 Nine Dirty Fisheries37 National Policies To Minimize Bycatch39 Recommendations39 Conclusion40 Oceana Reducing Bycatch: A Timeline42 ReferencesACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Andy Murch Elasmodiver.com/Marine PhotobankThe authors would like to thank JenniferHueting and In-House Creative for graphicdesign and the following individuals for theircontributions during the development andreview of this report: Eric Bilsky, Dustin Cranor,Mike LeVine, Susan Murray, Jackie Savitz,Amelia Vorpahl, Sara Young and Beckie Zisser.4OCEANA Protecting the World’s Oceans
EXECUTIVE SUMMARYBYCATCH, OR THE CATCH OFNON-TARGET FISH AND OCEANWILDLIFE, IS ONE OF THE LARGESTTHREATS TO MAINTAINING HEALTHYFISH POPULATIONS AND MARINEECOSYSTEMS AROUND THE WORLD.According to some estimates, global bycatch may amount to 40 percent ofthe world’s catch, totaling 63 billion pounds per year. In the United States,despite strong management measures and conservation initiatives in someregions, bycatch remains a persistent problem for far too many fisheries.Some fisheries discard more fish at sea than what they bring to port, inaddition to injuring and killing thousands of whales, dolphins, seals, seaturtles and sharks each year.While bycatch data is often outdated and inaccurate, researchers estimatethat 17-22 percent of U.S. catch is discarded every year, according to the bestavailable data. Bycatch in the U.S. could amount to 2 billion pounds everyyear, equivalent to the entire annual catch of many other fishing nationsaround the world. One of the biggest concerns about bycatch is that theseverity of the problem in many regions and fisheries still remains unknown.The National Marine Fisheries Service rarely reports comprehensive bycatchdata and in fact has not published a nationwide estimate using data morerecent than 2005—and has no intention of updating its estimates until 2017.In short, bycatch harms ocean wildlife, wastes important food resources andundercuts the economic success of our nation’s fisheries.In this report, we have identified nine of the worst bycatch fisheries in theU.S.—fisheries that discard large amounts of fish or harm marine wildlife ata high rate. Several of these fisheries discard more fish than they keep, ordiscard large amounts of the very species they are aiming to catch. Solutionsto the bycatch problem already exist and must be applied nationwide. Inorder to stop harmful bycatch and wasteful discarding, fisheries managersand fishermen must employ adequate monitoring, count everything that iscaught, establish science-based bycatch limits, and use innovative measuresto control the problem.CORRECTION: This report referenced a bycatch rate of 40% as determined byDavies et al. 2009, however that calculation used a broader definition of bycatch thanis standard. According to bycatch as defined in this report and elsewhere, the mostrecent analyses show a rate of approximately 10% (Zeller et al. 2017; FAO 2018).OCEANA.ORG5
QUICK FACTSWHAT IS BYCATCH? Bycatch is the catch of non-target fish and oceanwildlife, including what is brought to port and whatis discarded at sea. It is one of the most significantthreats to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.U.S. BYCATCH Approximately 17-22 percent of what fishermencatch every year is discarded at sea, likely already deador dying. Some fisheries discard more than what theybring to port. Nine fisheries in the U.S. are responsible for morethan half of all reported domestic bycatch, but onlybring in 7 percent of landings.INJURY TO MARINE WILDLIFE Federal fisheries managers authorize the killing of tensof thousands of sea turtles each year by commercialfisheries, primarily by Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawls. In 2010, more than 3,400 dusky sharks were capturedas bycatch in just two bottom longline fisheries in thesoutheast region of the U.S—even though it is illegal todeliberately catch them. More than 300 pilot whales and almost 700 sea turtleswere entangled or killed in a single year in Atlantic andGulf of Mexico longlines.LOOMING UNCERTAINTY Bycatch is not accurately estimated in three out of fourfisheries in the U.S. due to monitoring levels being belowwhat is recommended by federal fisheries managers.SOLUTIONS AND PROGRESS Bycatch is not inevitable. There are ways to minimizeunintended injury and waste by using cleaner gear,avoiding areas where vulnerable species are known tobe present and enforcing bycatch limits each season. Oceana has successfully advocated for bycatch limits6OCEANA Protecting the World’s Oceansin some of the largest U.S. fisheries, such as Chinooksalmon bycatch limits in the Alaska pollock fishing fleet,exemplifying a management strategy that should beimplemented nationwide.CURRENT POLICY IMPLEMENTATION IS INADEQUATE Loopholes exist in the implementation of existing laws,and less than one out of five Fishery Management Plansinclude incentives for fishermen to minimize bycatch.RECOMMENDATIONS Fisheries managers must employ adequate monitoringto accurately count everything that is caught, setscience-based limits on bycatch and ensure bycatch limitsare not exceeded. The fishing industry can accomplishthis through cooperative bycatch avoidance programs,time-area management and using cleaner fishing gear.WHAT IS BYCATCH?Bycatch is the capture of non-target fish and ocean wildlife,including what is brought to port and what is discarded atsea, dead or dying. Bycatch is one of the biggest threats to theoceans and has contributed to overfishing and the dramaticdecline of fish populations around the world. Commercialfisheries bring in approximately 160 billion pounds of marinecatch around the world each year,1 which means almost 400million pounds are caught every day. Recent estimates indicateas much as 40 percent of global catch is discarded overboard.2,3Anything can be bycatch: the dolphins that are encircled tobring you canned tuna, the sea turtles caught to bring youshrimp, the flounder thrown overboard to put seared scallopson the menu, the endangered whales migrating thousands ofmiles only to become entangled for the sake of lobster bisque,and the millions of pounds of halibut or cod that are wastedwhen fishermen have already reached their quota. Much ofthis captured wildlife is treated as waste, thrown overboarddead or dying. This conservation problem must be solved toensure healthy oceans into the future.CORRECTION: This report referenced a bycatch rate of 40% asdetermined by Davies et al. 2009, however that calculation used abroader definition of bycatch than is standard. According to bycatchas defined in this report and elsewhere, the most recent analyses showa rate of approximately 10% (Zeller et al. 2017; FAO 2018).
OCEANA.ORG Brian Skerry7
BYCATCH IS ANUNDOCUMENTEDPROBLEMBycatch has been a persistent problem for decades,because it remains largely undocumented. As definedabove, “bycatch” includes not only entangled wildlife,but also discarded fish that could not be brought to portbecause they were the wrong size, poor quality, lowmarket value, or prohibited for conservation reasons. Inthe 2000s, fisheries managers in the U.S. established strictcatch limits to end overfishing and rebuild depleted fishstocks. The success of these limits can be compromisedwhen target fish for one fishery are discarded as bycatch ina different fishery, like snapper being discarded by grouperfishermen in the South Atlantic and Gulf of MexicoDEFINITIONSBYCATCH All incidental catch ofnon-target fish and ocean wildlife,often discarded at sea.CATCH All fish that are caught,including targeted fish that are kept,non-targeted fish that are discarded,and non-target catch that fishermenbring to port.LANDINGS All fish that are broughtto port.DISCARD RATE A commonmetric to evaluate bycatch,calculated as the fishery’s totaldiscards divided by its total catch(e.g., 1 pound discarded for every 5pounds caught 1/5 20 percentdiscard rate).8OCEANA Protecting the World’s Oceansbottom longline fishery. Similarly, if New England trawlfishermen capture summer flounder but lack the permitto keep them, the fish are thrown overboard and wasted,and sometimes even go undocumented—which means arecreational angler is deprived of a fishing opportunity.Discarding large quantities of fish can lead to overfishing,prevent populations from recovering after decades ofoverexploitation, and disrupt the natural balance of marineecosystems. Indeed, some valuable overfished populationsare unable to recover because of persistent high levelsof bycatch.Reducing bycatch is a solvable problem. Essential stepsinclude: documenting all catch (whether brought to portor discarded at sea), setting scientifically based catchlimits for target and non-target species, and making everyeffort to actually avoid bycatch. Reducing bycatch willnot only save thousands of dolphins, whales, seals, seaturtles, sharks and seabirds, but will also help to rebuildoverfished populations and maintain healthy ones.PROTECTED SPECIES Speciesthat need special conservation andmanagement considerations such aswhales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles,seabirds and anything listed under theEndangered Species Act.FISHERY A group of fishermenor vessels targeting a given species(or group of fish) using certain typesof fishing gear(s) in a given area.FISHERY MANAGEMENTCOUNCIL An advisory bodycomprised of stakeholders fromindustry, government, academia andconservation groups establishedby the Magnuson-Stevens Act toestablish management measuresin eight regions of the U.S.FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLANA document prepared by the NationalMarine Fisheries Service with advicefrom regional Councils containingconservation and managementmeasures for fisheries such as annualcatch limits, accountability measures,bycatch limits and gear requirements.ANNUAL CATCH LIMIT The amounta fishery is allowed to catch of a certainspecies every year to ensure that overallfishing limits are not exceeded.CATCH SHARE PROGRAMA fishery management frameworkwhere individuals or groups offishermen are allocated the rights to apercentage of the fishery’stotal annual catch.OBSERVER An individual trainedto go onboard fishing trips andobjectively document fisheriescatch, location, discarding, bycatchcomposition and protected speciesentanglements.
U.S. FISHERIESMANAGEMENTThe Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation andManagement Act (MSA) governs fisheries managementin the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (up to 200 milesoffshore). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)is the federal agency responsible for implementing thislaw and ensuring that fisheries do not overexploit theocean’s fishery resources. A federally permitted “fishery”must follow fishing rules established by NMFS and theeight Regional Fishery Management Councils. Fishingrules must comply with U.S. law, but are often tailoredto local resources, economic factors or conservationinitiatives. This decentralized system has its benefits,but can result in inconsistencies and loopholes. NOAABYCATCH: A GLOBAL PROBLEMWorldwide, as many as four million fishing vesselsbring in more than 160 billion pounds of fish every year,with estimates of as much as 40 percent (or 63 billionpounds) of global catch discarded.3 Not only are millionsof pounds of fish thrown away every day, but scientistsestimate that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins andseals were killed around the world each year throughoutthe 1990s as a result of bycatch.4Bycatch is such a persistent global problem in partbecause many countries lack the capacity to accuratelymonitor and report catch. In 2005, less than half ofthe world’s fishing records quantitatively documentedlandings and bycatch.2 This problem is furthercompounded by illegal fishing and inadequate lawenforcement. However, only 25 countries, including theU.S., are responsible for 75 percent of all global marinelandings. Reducing bycatch and discards in these countriesalone would yield vast improvements for fish populations,ocean health and long-term fisheries management.CORRECTION: This report referenced a bycatch rate of 40% asdetermined by Davies et al. 2009, however that calculation used abroader definition of bycatch than is standard. According to bycatch asdefined in this report and elsewhere, the most recent analyses show arate of approximately 10% (Zeller et al. 2017; FAO 2018).WHALES, DOLPHINS AND SEALS WERE KILLED AROUND THE WORLDEACH YEAR THROUGHOUT THE 1990s AS A RESULT OF BYCATCHOCEANA.ORG9
BYCATCH OCCURSEVERY DAY IN THE U.S.THE BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION ISUNRELIABLE AND INCONSISTENTEstimating bycatch is extremely difficult for a varietyof reasons, including low levels of observer coverage,incomplete catch documentation, and the challenges ofgetting fishery managers to release bycatch data in a timelyfashion. Therefore, few independent researchers haveatte