Developing incentive-based bycatch reduction approaches in fisheries
In the terrestrial environment the use of economic incentives such as offsets and payments for ecosystem services are increasingly being recognised as valuable conservation tools for reducing the impacts of environmental damage. Despite their growing use on land, such incentive-based mitigation approaches have not been widely applied in the marine setting and many questions regarding their application remain. Bycatch is a leading threat to many marine mega-fauna populations across the globe. Fisheries bycatch reduction approaches have predominantly focused on technical solutions such as modifications to fishing gear. These have resulted in significant reductions in bycatch in some industrial fleets. Yet such top-down input controls driven by fisheries management can often result in poor uptake or degrading efficacy over time, especially in developing countries, through a lack of understanding of, or buy-in to, the mitigation approach from fishers and a feeling of disconnection between fishers and managers. The use of economic incentives to reduce bycatch has yet to be fully explored, and offers the potential to reduce the residual negative impacts of bycatch after other mitigation and avoidance measures have been applied. Here we examine a new conceptual framework for bycatch reduction in the marine context, based on the mitigation hierarchy used to reduce the biodiversity losses from development in terrestrial settings. We discuss the framework's potential application in a case study for minimising seabird bycatch, in order to explore: (1) the contexts in which different levels of the mitigation hierarchy may be effective in reducing bycatch, with the aim of no net loss, or net gain, for the impacted species after mitigation has taken place; and (2) the potential for using other incentive-based approaches to improve compliance with bycatch mitigation measures.