The NMFS Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program: Evolution and Priorities

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 8:40 AM
Conway (The Marriott Little Rock)
Derek Orner , National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA-NMFS, Silver Spring, MD
Bycatch occurs when fishing operations discard fish or interact with marine mammals, seabirds, or sea turtles.  Bycatch can have significant biological, economic, and social impacts on fisheries.  Reducing bycatch can help rebuild overfished fish stocks and help recover populations of endangered marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and fish.  Reducing bycatch also can increase the economic efficiency of fishing operations by reducing sorting time.     

NMFS is required to address bycatch reduction under several federal laws, including the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Endangered Species Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act.  NMFS established the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP) in 2008 to help meet its various bycatch reduction requirements.  The BREP helps identify and foster the development of innovative technological solutions to bycatch problems in our nation’s fisheries.

BREP research during 2012-2013 is helping find innovative ways to reduce bycatch in some of the most important U.S. fisheries: 

  • Georges Bank large mesh groundfish fishery.
  • Atlantic herring/mackerel mid-water trawl fishery.
  • Atlantic pelagic longline fishery.
  • Southeastern shrimp fishery.
  • Gulf of Mexico bottom longline reef fish fishery.
  • West Coast groundfish trawl fishery.
  • Hawaii-based longline fisheries.
  • Alaska pollock fisheries.

 BREP projects have helped produce several gear technologies that are used by the fishing industry to reduce bycatch, including: 

  • Weak hooks, which are now required in the Gulf of Mexico tuna longline fishery.
  • Salmon excluders, which are used widely in Alaska pollock fisheries.
  • Sea turtle deflector dredges, which now are now required for some Atlantic sea scallop vessels.
  • Modified sweeps in Bering Sea trawl fisheries, which now are required to reduce damage to the sea bottom and organisms growing there. 

 This presentation will describe changes to the BREP over the past few years, including its transformation into a mostly external grant-driven research program.  In addition, this presentation will describe current BREP research priorities and awards for 2013.