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Reducing bycatch of dolphins in the Bay of Biscay

January 9, 2023

Successful approaches to reducing bycatch are relevant to developing feasible and effective options for other fisheries. Tara Marshall from the University of Aberdeen was invited to attend a workshop organised by IFREMER and held in Brest, 16-17 March 2023 to speak about the experience of introducing real-time reporting (BATmap) to a groundfish fishery on the west coast of Scotland.

The goal of the workshop was to discuss incentive-based approaches to reducing dolphin bycatch. France has regularly experienced significant dolphin mortality in the Bay of Biscay that generates considerable public concern. Since 2016 these strandings have reached unprecedented levels, estimated at several thousand dolphins per year. In July 2022, the European Commission called on France to implement the measures required by the Habitats Directive and the Common Fisheries Policy to avoid bycatch of dolphin and porpoise species by fishing vessels.

The workshop brought together representatives of case studies from international fisheries, including participants from Ireland, the US east and west coasts, and Scotland that have developed innovative approaches for reducing bycatch. Participants recognised that targeted solutions require detailed information about the conditions under which bycatch occurs. For example, real-time reporting provides information about the amount and location of bycatch.

Workshop discussions emphasized the need to ensure that individuals will not be subject to prosecution based on information that is shared using real-time reporting.  Additionally, the critical role that collective organizations play in fostering an information sharing culture was acknowledged. The real-time reporting approach used by BATmap was positively viewed as it provides the means for industry to identify and disseminate the location of bycatch hotspots as well as the means to inform authorities about trends in abundance seasonally and year-to-year.

Additional reading
Fishing news: bycatch lessons from Alaska