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The Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC) provides training programs for SIDS fisheries officers, observers and others, to assist them with monitoring, recording and reporting bycatch.

Baseline research on bycatch

Ecological risk assessments identify animals most vulnerable to fishing. More vulnerable animals are those with more interactions with fishing and low rates of population increase – such as sharks, turtles, marine mammals and seabirds.

Bycatch numbers vary with fishing methods, but it is hard to get sufficient data on bycatch for methods with less observation.

  • In the purse-seine fishery the level of bycatch is around 12% (by weight) of the total catch. Bycatch from free-swimming sets is much lower on average (1.0% by weight of total catch) than bycatch those from associated sets (2.0% by weight of total catch). Dolphins are rarely encircled by purse seines in the WCPO; the most significant bycatch species are sharks. In 2017, SPC produced a report on bycatch in purse-seine fisheries over the period 2003–2016. SPC’s Neville Smith provides an overview of the report (2.09 mins).
    https://youtu.be/pLg7mn4_-mk
  • Rates of bycatch in the longline fishery are considerably higher, at around 30% of the total catch. However, much of this is retained bycatch (byproduct), which has some commercial value.

Most sharks are caught in the longline fishery, with the purse-seine fishery estimated to catch only 2–3% of the total. Most of the WCPFC’s designated key shark species – including shortfin mako, silky, oceanic whitetip, thresher, porbeagle, hammerhead, and whale sharks – now require conservation, and action is occurring to reduce bycatch of these species.

Billfish continue to form a significant proportion of the non-target catch, but are mostly retained due to their commercial value.

Seabird mortality due to longlines is almost non-existent in the tropical WCPO compared with higher latitudes, where albatrosses and petrels in particular are prone to becoming caught. But low observer coverage on many longline fleets means that interactions are largely unknown.

Other research projects

Enough sharks end up as bycatch that some populations are threatened. Photo credit: Francisco Blaha