Developing solutions to increase survival rates of vulnerable bycatch species in tuna purse seine FAD fisheries
One of the principal impacts of FAD fishing is accidental catch of vulnerable species like sharks, mobulid rays, or turtles. In the last decade, scientists and purse seine industry have been collaborating to test diverse fishing tactics, tool configurations, fishing manoeuvre modifications and new release devices for bycatch mitigation. Prevention of ghost fishing by transitioning to non-entangling FADs, with the support of RFMOs, is one example. Possible options to avoid endangered species bycatch include near-real time fleet communication systems of bycatch habitat preferences and the use of dynamic ocean models and acoustic technology to discriminate target species from undesired ones. Once encircled in the net, fishing sharks with hook and line to release them out could be evaluated, even if applied only at peak shark zones or seasons. For those animals captured that arrive on deck, bycatch release devices are being developed and evaluated including shark velcros, manta sorting grids, or hoppers with ramps. These tools are built considering crew safety and also the reduction of time of release of sensitive bycatch into the water with minimum stressful handling. The implementation of most promising bycatch mitigation strategies and tools, in close collaboration with the fishery sector, can strongly accelerate change towards better practices that help reduce current elasmobranch bycatch in the purse seine fishery contributing to a more sustainable fishery.