Protecting marine mammals, turtles, and birds by rebuilding global fisheries

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Science  16 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6381, pp. 1255-1258
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4248

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Healthy fisheries can reduce bycatch

Bycatch of marine mammals, turtles, and birds during commercial fishing is a considerable threat. Activities intended to reduce bycatch are often thought to conflict with commercial fishing. However, Burgess et al. show that in the majority of cases, managing fishery stocks to best promote long-term sustainability would also reduce bycatch. Rebuilding fish stocks will naturally promote lower bycatch, and these factors together will facilitate sustainable profit generation from fish harvest.

Science, this issue p. 1255


Reductions in global fishing pressure are needed to end overfishing of target species and maximize the value of fisheries. We ask whether such reductions would also be sufficient to protect non–target species threatened as bycatch. We compare changes in fishing pressure needed to maximize profits from 4713 target fish stocks—accounting for >75% of global catch—to changes in fishing pressure needed to reverse ongoing declines of 20 marine mammal, sea turtle, and seabird populations threatened as bycatch. We project that maximizing fishery profits would halt or reverse declines of approximately half of these threatened populations. Recovering the other populations would require substantially greater effort reductions or targeting improvements. Improving commercial fishery management could thus yield important collateral benefits for threatened bycatch species globally.

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