Technical mitigation to reduce marine mammal bycatch and entanglement in commercial fishing gear: lessons learnt and future directions
Fisheries bycatch is one of the biggest threats to marine mammal populations. A literature review was undertaken to provide a comprehensive assessment and synopsis of gear modifications and technical devices to reduce marine mammal bycatch in commercial trawl, purse seine, longline, gillnet and pot/trap fisheries. Successfully implemented mitigation measures include acoustic deterrent devices (pingers) which reduced the bycatch of some small cetacean species in gillnets, appropriately designed exclusion devices which reduced pinniped bycatch in some trawl fisheries, and various pot/trap guard designs that reduced marine mammal entrapment. However, substantial development and research of mitigation options is required to address the bycatch of a range of species in many fisheries. No reliably effective technical solutions to reduce small cetacean bycatch in trawl nets are available, although loud pingers have shown potential. There are currently no technical options that effectively reduce marine mammal interactions in longline fisheries, although development of catch and hook protection devices is promising. Solutions are also needed for species, particularly pinnipeds and small cetaceans, that are not deterred by pingers and continue to be caught in static gillnets. Large whale entanglements in static gear, particularly buoy lines for pots/traps, needs urgent attention although there is encouraging research on rope-less pot/trap systems and identification of rope colours that are more detectable to whale species. Future mitigation development and deployment requires rigorous scientific testing to determine if significant bycatch reduction has been achieved, as well as consideration of potentially conflicting mitigation outcomes if multiple species are impacted by a fishery.