Individual and fleetwide bycatch thresholds in regional fisheries management frameworks

Gilman E, Chaloupka M, Bellquist L, et al (2023) Individual and fleetwide bycatch thresholds in regional fisheries management frameworks. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries.

Fisheries can adversely affect threatened bycatch species and vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). Thresholds are unique amongst bycatch management methods in providing flexibility in individual participants’ approaches to avoid exceeding limits, and particularly for individual vessel quotas, in incentivizing the innovation of effective and commercially viable solutions. This study assessed bycatch thresholds for sharks and relatives, air-breathing marine species and macroinvertebrate indicators for identifying benthic VMEs of 21 intergovernmental organizations and arrangements (IGOs). Seven IGOs lacking bycatch thresholds, who tended to have fewer members, might rely on bycatch management by national authorities. Sharks were the predominant focus. IGOs did not know if thresholds were reached for almost half of measures, likely due to compliance monitoring deficits. Individual vessel limits may be more equitable and prevent a race for fish. However, risk pools and fleetwide thresholds may be more effective when mitigation approaches for individual vessels are limited. No IGO uses individual transferable bycatch quotas or risk pools, which would be challenging to implement regionally. No thresholds were reference points of a harvest strategy. There were limited incidences of thresholds being reached. Thresholds might be set too high to meet objectives. When reached, there was high variability in management responses being systematically implemented. Addressing deficits of thresholds being set too low, inadequate compliance monitoring and inconsistent management response implementation could improve performance. Thresholds have the potential to be an effective component of regional bycatch management strategies, incentivizing fishers to minimize their individual and collective bycatch fishing mortality and adverse effects on VMEs.