Report of the Expert Workshop on Means and Methods for Reducing Marine Mammal Mortality in Fishing and Aquaculture Operations
One of the greatest threats to species and population survival of marine mammals with their relatively slow growth and low fecundity comes from inadvertent interaction with, or capture in, fishing and aquaculture operations. FAO members have expressed great concern about bycatch of marine mammals at recent sessions of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI). At its Thirty-First Session in 2014 the Committee reiterated its support for FAO’s ongoing work on bycatch management and reduction of discards, and requested FAO to expand its efforts to effectively implement the International Guidelines on Bycatch Management and Reduction of Discards, addressing all fishing gears where bycatch, including, inter alia, that of marine mammals, and discards were a problem. At its Thirty-Second Session in 2016, the committee welcomed the offer of the United States of America to fund an expert workshop to review the findings of recent international marine mammal bycatch workshops. Within this context, FAO convened the Expert Workshop on Means and Methods for Reducing Marine Mammal Mortality in Fishing and Aquaculture Operations in Rome, Italy from 20 to 23 March 2018, which was attended by twenty-seven experts in marine mammal science and bycatch mitigation. The workshop reviewed the current state of knowledge on the issue of marine mammal bycatch, and evaluated the efficacy of different strategies and measures for mitigating bycatch and their implementation. The workshop produced some key technical outputs, including an extensive review of techniques across different gear types and species, together with a summary table and a draft decision-making tool (decision tree) which could be used to support management decision-making processes. The workshop recommended that FAO develop Technical Guidelines on means and methods for prevention and reduction of marine mammal bycatch and mortality in fishing and aquaculture operations in support of FAO’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and as a supplement to International Guidelines on Bycatch Management and Reduction of Discards. The workshop also recommended that FAO consider establishing a global capacity development programme to support developing States in the application of the proposed guidelines.