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Disentangling the causes of protected-species bycatch in gillnet fisheries

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Gillnet fisheries are widely thought to pose a conservation threat to many populations of marine mammals, seabirds and turtles. Gillnet fisheries also support a significant proportion of small-scale fishing communities worldwide. Despite a large number of studies on protected species bycatch in recent decades, relatively few have examined the underlying causes of bycatch, and fewer still have looked at the issue from a multi-taxon perspective. We used three bibliographic databases and one search engine to identify studies by year of publication and taxon. The majority of studies on the mechanisms of gillnet bycatch are not accessible through mainstream published literature sources. Many are reported in technical papers, government reports and University theses. We reviewed over 600 published and unpublished studies of bycatch where causal or correlative factors were considered, and identified therein 28 environmental, operational, technical and behavioral factors that might plausibly be associated with higher or lower bycatch rates of the three taxa. Of the factors considered, 11 were found to have been associated with potential bycatch reduction in two out of the three taxa, while three factors (water depth, mesh size and net height) were associated with trends in bycatch rate for all three taxa. These findings provide a basis to guide further experimental work to test hypotheses about which factors most influence bycatch rates, and to explore ways of managing fishing activities and/or improving gear design to minimize the incidental capture of species of conservation concern, whilst ensuring the viability of the fisheries concerned.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-695
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number3
Early online date29 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2017

    Research areas

  • Fishing gear, Bibliographic analysis, Bycatch reduction, Protected species, Static nets, Meta-analysis

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ID: 242201694