Why Is Bycatch A Problem? 5 Solutions To Sea Turtle Bycatch
We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are going to protect and save the oceans. One of the biggest issues is the depletion of many marine species including sea turtles. Sea turtle bycatch is among one of the most serious threats they face.
The answer to what is bycatch can vary depending on the organization or individual you ask. In general, it is any marine life incidentally caught or harmed as a result of commercial fishing.
When it comes to sea turtle bycatch, there are issues like the turtles getting accidentally caught, tangled in discarded nets, and swallowing fishing hooks. How much sea turtle bycatch is caught annually is a staggering amount, which exacerbates the problem.
If we are going to save these animals, we need solutions to bycatch to start reducing sea turtle bycatch today. Fortunately, there are answers that already exist for reducing the sea turtle bycatch rate.
Read on to learn about some of the solutions to bycatch being deployed to protect sea turtles from commercial fishing operations. But first, let’s start with some background on what bycatch is.
WHAT IS BYCATCH?
Bycatch is a problem plaguing our oceans, affecting a multitude of marine species. It refers to the unintended marine life captured or harmed during commercial fishing practices.
This includes creatures like the endangered sea turtles, which often find themselves entangled in nets or swallowing fishing hooks. Sea turtle bycatch is particularly concerning, given the significant decline in their populations.
Thankfully, there are solutions to bycatch. Measures like turtle-excluder devices and eco-friendly fishing gear are being adopted to reduce bycatch and prevent the accidental capture of sea turtles.
Continued efforts in understanding how to prevent bycatch are crucial. Only with sustained actions and innovations can we ensure the health and diversity of our marine ecosystems.
WHY IS BYCATCH A PROBLEM?
The unintended capture of vast numbers of non-target species drastically affects marine ecosystems. It endangers both the economic and ecological balance of our oceans.
From sea turtle bycatch to dolphin bycatch, many of the species caught are integral to the food chain. Their diminished numbers can lead to overpopulation of some marine animals and underpopulation of others.
The wastefulness of discarding these unintentionally caught species means that a significant amount of marine life is lost without benefiting human consumption or the fishing industry. This not only affects the balance of marine ecosystems but also diminishes the efficiency and sustainability of fishing operations.
HOW MUCH BYCATCH IS CAUGHT ANNUALLY?
Disturbingly, millions of tons of unintended marine species - 38 million tons, in fact - including vulnerable sea turtle bycatch, are ensnared each year. This alarming volume underscores why bycatch is a problem, with repercussions echoing throughout marine ecosystems.
Yet, hope shines through with solutions to bycatch. By understanding what bycatch is and implementing measures on how to prevent bycatch, we can significantly curb these numbers and chart a course toward healthier oceans.
HOW TO PREVENT BYCATCH: 5 PRECAUTIONARY ANSWERS
The challenge of how to prevent bycatch is one we must urgently address. In this section, we aim to blend traditional fishing methods with modern ingenuity as solutions to bycatch. These 5 solutions we discuss below emerge as hope:
SOLUTIONS TO BYCATCH #1: ILLUMINATED NETS
Nets are one of the biggest problems contributing to sea turtle bycatch and other marine animal bycatch. They just get cast into the water and scoop up everything in their path.
One sea turtle bycatch solution that is showing great promise is the use of lights on nets. The new nets work by having LED or chemical glow lights attached to the netting.
While researchers are not sure why it is effective at reducing sea turtle bycatch in trawl nets, it has been shown to protect a variety of species. In one study, illuminated nets reduced bycatch by 63% without having a significant impact on harvesting the target species.
SOLUTIONS TO BYCATCH #2: AVOID PRODUCTS WITH HIGH RATES OF BYCATCH
As a consumer, you can help reduce sea turtle bycatch by avoiding products with high rates of bycatch. By being selective, you directly impact and reduce bycatch of sea turtles and other unintended marine captures.
For example, products like shrimp and grouper tend to have higher bycatch rates. If consumers are more conscious about their seafood purchases, it will incentivize sustainable fishing practices.
With that said, you don’t have to avoid seafood altogether. You don’t even have to avoid eating the types of fish that typically have high rates of bycatch.
Consumers can support sea turtle bycatch prevention by only buying from companies that use sustainable fishing practices. One way to do this is to look for the seal of the Marine Stewardship Council when you shop for seafood.
SOLUTIONS TO BYCATCH #3: BETTER HOOK DESIGN
Sea turtles can often have problems with fishing hooks. The fishermen might not be after turtles, but the bait can still attract them.
They go after what seems like an easy meal and then get hooked by the fishermen. In some cases, they swallow the hooks, and it leads to death.
Some commercial fishing boats are reducing bycatch of sea turtles by using hooks with better designs. In thinking about how to prevent bycatch, one way to protect turtles is to use hooks without barbs on the ends.
Beyond that, the shape of the hook can matter. Instead of the old J-shaped hooks, newer hooks with more of an O-shape can prevent green sea turtle bycatch.
SOLUTIONS TO BYCATCH #4: SELECTIVE PANELS
As we mentioned before, nets can be one of the biggest problems for bycatch of sea turtles. It is an even bigger problem when you look at trawling operations.
Why is bycatch a problem for these creatures? Because it unintentionally ensnares them, leading to unintended casualties.
With that said, newer net designs are reducing bycatch of sea turtles in trawling nets. These new net designs can work in several ways to reduce bycatch.
One way is to have nets made of selective panels. The panels have different size holes and holes that face different angles.
With the right design, the net will catch more of the target species. At the same time, it will reduce the bycatch of sea turtles and other marine life.
SOLUTIONS TO BYCATCH #5: PROMOTE SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION
One final way to protect sea turtles from bycatch is to promote conservation. At Fahlo, we do that with our sea turtle tracking bracelets.
We donate a portion of the profits from every sale to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Along with that, the customer gets a stylish bracelet to show their support and a real sea turtle they can track.
BUILDING A WORLD WHERE BYCATCH IS NO LONGER A CHALLENGE
Understanding what is bycatch and why is bycatch a problem is critical to marine conservation. While bycatch of sea turtles and other marine creatures face increasing challenges, solutions to bycatch are within reach.
By embracing practices that reduce sea turtle bycatch and supporting initiatives like the conservation efforts we support at Fahlo, we can make a difference. As consumers, recognizing how to prevent bycatch and being conscious of how much bycatch is caught annually can guide our decisions and further the cause.
Together, let's champion a future where the oceans thrive and where every sea turtle swims free from harm.