NOAA aims to reduce catch of non-targeted species

Federal fisheries officials have released a new national plan intended to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality, in support of sustainably managed fisheries and to help in the recovery of protected species.

NOAA Fisheries said its National Bycatch Reduction Strategy would be implemented at the regional national and international levels.

For the purpose of this strategy, the term bycatch refers to the discarded catch of marine species and unobserved mortality as a result of direct encounters with fishing vessels and gear.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires that bycatch and bycatch mortality be minimized to the extent practicable. For species protected under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, bycatch is a type of “take,” which can range from capturing, collecting and harassing to shooting, trapping or wounding species protected under those federal laws.

The National Bycatch Reduction Strategy sets national objectives and actions for all of NOAA Fisheries’ bycatch reduction programs.  The agency said national and regional implementation plans are to be developed in coordination with partners. Due to the different bycatch issues across the regions covered by NOAA Fisheries, the national level objectives and actions presented in the document are to be applied to the specific priorities and needs of each region and its fisheries through the implementation plans.

The five objectives include monitoring and estimating rates of bycatch and bycatch mortaility to understand the level of impact, conducting research to understand the impact of bycatch on species and community dynames, conserving and managing fisheries and protected species by implementing measures to reduce bycatch, enforcing fishery management measures, and communicating with the public to develop a common understanding of bycatch, and to identify areas where improvements can be made.

The complete plan is posted online at 

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/fisheries_eco/bycatch/docs/national_bycatch_reduction_strategy_final.pdf