Estimating trends and magnitudes of bycatch in the tuna fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean
Minimising the unintended capture of fish, marine mammals, reptiles, seabirds and other marine organisms is an important component of responsible fisheries management and for stabilising declines and rebuilding populations of threatened species. The analyses presented were designed to establish the first quantitative baseline of historical catches, catch rates and species composition for the dominant tuna fisheries operating in the western and central Pacific, the world's largest in terms of tuna catch. Using records from 612,148 fishing events collected by independent ‘at sea’ observers, estimates for finfish, billfish, elasmobranchs, marine mammals and sea turtles show that the composition and magnitude of catches varied considerably by fishery type and practice for the period 2003–2019. Simulations indicated that precision in longline estimates would be improved by monitoring a proportion of fishing sets from all fishing trips rather than full coverage from a proportion of all fishing trips. While attributing reasons for temporal trends in estimated bycatch was difficult due to the confounding impacts of changing abundances and fishing practices, the trends identified the nature of potential relationships for species that are not accurately quantified, or not covered, by fishing vessel logbooks. The trends in catch estimates, and the catch rate models, have utility in identifying species which may require targeted additional analyses and management interventions, including species of conservation interest (either due to their threatened status or vulnerability to fishing) such as elasmobranchs and sea turtles. Moreover, the estimates should support future evaluations of the impact of these industrial-scale fisheries on bycatch species.
Also published as IOTC-2023-WPEB19-33.