Battling Bycatch

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A loggerhead turtle swims free of a fish net using an excluder device. 

A loggerhead turtle swims free of a fish net using an excluder device. 

When shrimpers drag a net behind them in the ocean, they catch not just shrimp, but also all sorts of other species — from octopi to sponges. The nets can also entangle marine animals such as dolphins and turtles. Whatever it is that ends up in the net is called bycatch, and NOAA is on a mission to reduce the harmful effects of both commercial and recreational angling on non-target species.

New regulations require many commercial fishing operations to fit their nets with “exclusion” devices that funnel turtles, dolphin and other species away from the net where they can swim free. NOAA has an entire team that works solely on developing fishing gear that catches more of the target species and fewer of the unwanted ones that end up being tossed back dead into the ocean.

NOAA is also working with recreational anglers to promote safer catch-and-release practices that reduce mortality in the fish that anglers put back into the water. These include using circle hooks and utilizing devices that help deep-water species survive pressure sickness. This video has more on NOAA’s efforts.

You can find out more about what you can do to help, both as a consumer or as an angler, by visiting NOAA’s bycatch website.