Fleet communication to abate fisheries bycatch
Fleet communication systems report near real-time observations of bycatch hotspots to enable a fishery to operate as a coordinated "One Fleet" to substantially reduce fleet-wide capture of protected bycatch species. This benefits the bycatch species per se, reduces waste, and can provide economic benefits to industry by reducing risk of exceeding bycatch thresholds and causing future declines in target species catch levels. We describe case studies of fleet communication programs of the US North Atlantic longline swordfish fishery, US North Pacific and Alaska trawl fisheries, and US Alaska demersal longline fisheries, and identify alternative fleet communication program designs to reduce fisheries bycatch. Evidence supports the inference that these three fleet communication programs substantially reduced fisheries bycatch and provided economic benefits that greatly outweighed operational costs. Fleet communication may be appropriate in fisheries where there are strong economic incentives to reduce bycatch, interactions with bycatch species are rare events, adequate onboard observer coverage exists, and for large fleets, vessels are represented by a fishery association.
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