Bycatch and release of pelagic megafauna in industrial trawler fisheries off Northwest Africa
Zeeberg, J.J. ; Corten, A.A.H.M. ; Graaf, E. de - \ 2006
Fisheries Research 78 (2006)2-3. - ISSN 0165-7836 - p. 186 - 195.
leatherback turtles - atlantic - ocean - sea
The accidental capture of large animals such as sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and dolphins in pelagic trawler fisheries remains controversial because it threatens biological diversity in many biogeographical regions, including the subtropical eastern North Atlantic. Bycatch rates observed during more than 1400 trawl sets off Mauritania, Northwest Africa, are shown to have been considerable during the past 4 years, with high animal abundance in Summer when the Northwest African shelf is occupied by subtropical water. We demonstrate the urgency for bycatch reduction and evaluate the use of species-selective gear, a conservation method immediately available and immediately effective in waters fished through international access agreements. A modification tested in commercial trawls during the observer program guides pelagic megafauna deflected by a filter to an escape tunnel along the bottom of the trawl. This ¿excluder¿ reduces bycatch mortality of the most vulnerable megafauna species by at least 40¿100%