Reducing fishing impacts

WWF's Global Marine Programme is working with fisheries around the world to reduce ecosystem harm caused by damaging and wasteful fishing practices.
Our work to reduce the damaging impacts of fishing includes:

A large focus of work is to reduce bycatch, one of the greatest and most pervasive threats to life in the oceans.
Discarded catch by deep-sea trawler, North Atlantic Ocean. / ©: WWF / Mike R. JACKSON
Discarded catch by deep-sea trawler, North Atlantic Ocean.

What's the problem?

Each year, billions of marine animals needlessly die due to accidental capture (bycatch) in fishing nets, while fragile marine habitats are being destroyed by destructive fishing practices.

Giving marine turtles a chance

Some 200,000 endangered loggerhead turtles (<i>Caretta caretta</i>) drown annually on ... / ©: WWF / Michel GUNTHER
Some 200,000 endangered loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) drown annually on longlines set around the world for tuna, swordfish, and other fish.
© WWF / Michel GUNTHER
Marine turtles are particularly vulnerable to bycatch. They are regularly caught in shrimp trawls and on longline hooks - where, trapped and unable to reach the ocean surface, they usually drown.

 WWF is working with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and other partners to introduce a new type of hook in Pacific Ocean longline fisheries that can reduce marine turtle deaths by as much as 90% 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, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have donated over 250,000 circle hooks to WWF for trials in the Eastern 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.

We are also promoting the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDS) in shrimp trawls. TEDs are metal grids that allow shrimp to pass into the main part of the net, but allow up to 97% of caught marine turtles to escape with only a minimal reduction in shrimp catch.

For example, we assisted in initial TED trials in Mozambique, and helped make their use compulsory in the country’s shrimp trawl fleet. As well as saving the lives of up to 5,000 marine turtles per year, the use of TEDs allows Mozambican fishers to sell their shrimp to the US market.

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