NOAA grant aims at bycatch reduction

A new project underway by the International Pacific Halibut Commission aims to identify potential methods for protecting hook-caught fish from whale depredation, plus catch protection designs for use in current longline fishing techniques.

Funding from the NOAA Fisheries includes $99,700 to the IPHC for a gear-based approach study on catch protection as a means for minimizing whale depredation in longline fisheries. When whales find and eat hooked fish from the longliners it results in venue loss for harvesters and also puts whales at risk of injury or entanglement in fishing gear.

The study draws on the collective expertise of fishery participants and scientists to identify methods of preventing depredation in Alaska longline fisheries, with testing of the most promising methods in the field.

NOAA has allocated $403,692 for two projects for the West Coast, with funding going to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, or PSMFC.

One $157,897 project will test modified circle hooks to reduce yelloweye rockfish bycatch in the West Coast directed Pacific halibut longline fishery. High levels of yelloweye rockfish bycatch could result in management measures that would limit fishery participants’ access to halibut, and could hinder rebuilding status of stocks, NOAA officials noted.

Another $245,797 grant to the PSMFC is for artificial illumination of trawl gear components to reduce Pacific halibut bycatch in West Coast and Alaska bottom trawl fisheries. That study will test whether adding lights to fishing gear can help Pacific halibut avoid capture in bottom trawl fisheries that target other species.

NOAA also allocated additional funds to the New England Aquarium Corp for porbeagle shark research; to Delaware State University for Atlantic Monkfish bycatch reduction; to the Sea Mammal Education Learning Technology Society for research on lobster and gillnet gear in the Gulf of Maine; and to LobsterLift LLC to reduce whale entanglements in the lobster fishery.