Cost-effective mitigation strategies to reduce bycatch threats to cetaceans identified using return-on-investment analysis
Globally, fisheries bycatch threatens the survival of many whale and dolphin species. Strategies for reducing bycatch can be expensive. Management is inclined to prioritize investment in actions that are inexpensive, but these may not be the most effective. We used an economic tool, return-on-investment, to identify cost-effective measures to reduce cetacean bycatch in the trawl, net, and line fisheries of Australia. We examined 3 management actions: spatial closures, acoustic deterrents, and gear modifications. We compared an approach for which the primary goal was to reduce the cost of bycatch reduction to fisheries with an approach that aims solely to protect whale and dolphin species. Based on cost-effectiveness and at a fine spatial resolution, we identified the management strategies across Australia that most effectively abated dolphin and whale bycatch. Although trawl-net modifications were the cheapest strategy overall, there were many locations where spatial closures were the most cost-effective solution, despite their high costs to fisheries, due to their effectiveness in reducing all fisheries interactions. Our method can be used to delineate strategies to reduce bycatch threats to mobile marine species across diverse fisheries at relevant spatial scales to improve conservation outcomes.