Issues related to adoption of subsurface gillnetting to reduce bycatch in Pakistan

Moazzam M, Khan MF (2019) Issues related to adoption of subsurface gillnetting to reduce bycatch in Pakistan. In: IOTC - 15th Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch. IOTC-2019-WPEB15-48, La Saline Les Bains, Reunion Island

Gillnet is a popular fishing method used for catching tuna and tuna like fishes especially by small scale fisheries of coastal states of the Indian Ocean. However, gillnets are known for extremely high bycatch which includes not only commercially important fish species but also a large number of non-target endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species. Information about gillnet bycatch is not well known from major coastal states, however, studies initiated by WWF-Pakistan provide comprehensive information about bycatch of gillnet fisheries of Pakistan. It is estimated that more than 12,000 cetaceans and 29,000 sea turtles used to be annually entangled in the gillnet fisheries of Pakistan alone. Their numbers may be equally higher in other countries of the northern Arabian Sea where a large gillnet fleet is based.

Considering high bycatch of ETP species, WWF-Pakistan introduced subsurface gillnetting in Pakistan as a mean for reducing entanglement and mortality of at least cetaceans and turtles. Placing gillnet below 2 m proved to a success, as catches of target species of gillnet fisheries including yellowfin, longtail and skipjack tunas increased substantially whereas catches of some important species such as billfish and dolphinfish substantially decreased. However, high catches of target species i.e. yellowfin, longtail and skipjack tunas compensates for the losses incurred due to decreased catches of these two species group.