Using pingers to reduce bycatch of small cetaceans in Peru's small-scale driftnet fishery
There is growing awareness that small-scale fisheries may have large impacts on threatened marine fauna. Bycatch of small cetaceans by the Peruvian small-scale driftnet fleet results in the deaths of thousands of animals annually. We sought to assess the effectiveness of acoustic alarms (pingers) for reducing the incidental capture of dolphins and porpoises by this fleet. Forty-three experimental trips (156 fishing sets) and 47 control trips (195 fishing sets) out of Salaverry Port, northern Peru, were observed from April 2009 to August 2011. Twenty-two percent of control sets captured small cetaceans (67 individuals) and 16% of experimental sets had captures of small cetaceans (33 individuals). The bycatch rate of experimental sets was 0.50 individuals km−2h−1, whereas for control sets the rate was 0.80 individuals km−2h−1. This 37% reduction in bycatch rate suggests that pingers may be effective in reducing the bycatch of small cetaceans in this fishery. Catch rates of the fishery's target shark and ray species were unchanged. Given the vast size of this fishery and its current levels of bycatch of small cetaceans (> 10,000 individuals annually), even the modest declines in bycatch we observed could result in reductions in mortality of hundreds or thousands of small cetaceans per annum. Challenges, including increased costs, to large-scale utilization of pingers have yet to be overcome. The harpooning of dolphins for use as bait will also need to be addressed for further reductions in dolphin and porpoise bycatch and mortality to be achievable.