Tackling fisheries bycatch

With every vessel that returns to port with a hold full of fish comes a large amount of species incidentally killed in fishing gears.

How can the fishing industry feed people and the economies of the Coral Triangle while keeping the ocean's fragile balance?
 / ©: Brian J. Skerry/National Geographic Stock/WWF
Guitarfish, rays, and other bycatch are tossed from a shrimp boat. La Paz, Mexico.
© Brian J. Skerry/National Geographic Stock/WWF
In the Coral Triangle, the impacts of bycatch have been devastating.
  • Populations of nesting marine turtles have declined by as much as 90% in some areas
  • Overfishing of sharks in longline fisheries targeting tuna has endangered many species
  • and in shrimp fisheries, juvenile 'trash fish' can outweigh the catch of targeted shrimp by more than 10 to 1
Indiscriminate fishing and lack of management over "non-targeted" species is the cause of these trends. Such wasteful management can have potentially catastrophic food security implications if left unadressed.

Bycatch, a regular occurence in many fishing gears

Fishing gear is rarely selective—any species can be caught, including non-target species.

  • Longline fisheries: Marine turtles and seabirds are caught when the gear is dispersed or hauled in. At normal fishing depths, it is sharks, billfishes and and juvenile tunas which are the victims.
     
  • Trawl fisheries: Large nets dragged along the seabed catch almost everything on their path. At shallow depths, bottom trawls also catch marine turtles.
     
  • Gillnet fisheries: This type of gear can be set at any depth, posing a major risk for marine turtles, whales and seabirds among others.
 / ©: WWF
Key facts & figures regarding seafood in the Coral Triangle
© WWF
© WWF

What WWF is doing

In the Coral Triangle, WWF has partnered with businesses and local fishing communities to roll out technological solutions to bycatch.
  • Safer longline hooks, less bycatch
    Replacing "J" hooks by "circle" hooks can reduce actual bycatch rates of longline fishing by up to 90%. In some cases, such as tuna fisheries, "circle" hooks can even increase target catch rates.
     
  • Giving endangered species an escape route
    Simple techniques are available to help non-target species to survive. The Turtle Excluder Device (TED), a simple device that consists of an escape hatch at the back of shrimp trawls, makes it possible for turtles to escape from a slow death.

    For smaller non-target species, the Juvenile Trash Excluder Devices (JTEDs) excludes objects the same size or smaller than the target species. In addition to preventing marine turtles from drowning, TEDs and JTEDs protect marine biodiversity by allowing other species to escape from trawl nets.
     
  • Turtle dehookers and onboard training
    WWF has carried out a variety of training programmes in longline fisheries across the Coral Triangle in turtle de-hooking, rescue and handling techniques.
Circle Hook. / ©: WWF-Canon / Jill Hatzai
Circle Hook.
© WWF-Canon / Jill Hatzai
 / ©: Cat HOLLOWAY
Silky shark caught by the fin on an illegal longline hook.
© Cat HOLLOWAY

How you can help

  • If you are in the fisheries sector, contact us to find out how you could be reducing your bycatch and leading by example.

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