Pew Recommends NOAA Withdraw Proposed Bycatch Rule

Draft regulation would impede scientific research

Pew Recommends NOAA Withdraw Proposed Bycatch Rule
Loggerhead turtles could be affected by NOAA weakening anti-bycatch rules© NOAA

A loggerhead sea turtle escapes from a top-opening excluder device, a type of gear that reduces the catch of nontarget animals by fishermen.

On April 25, 2016, The Pew Charitable Trusts submitted comments urging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service to withdraw a proposed rule that would undermine the availability of quality data that scientists need to measure the impact of bycatch—fish and other wildlife, such as sea turtles and seabirds, caught but unwanted by fishermen. These animals are often dead or dying when discarded at sea.

One in 5 fish caught in the U.S. is bycatch, and reducing this waste can help promote fisheries sustainability. Properly monitoring the amount of bycatch is the first step in addressing the problem. However, NOAA Fisheries’ proposed rule does not require the collection of accurate, statistically significant data by observers, fishermen, and others, which would weaken scientists’ ability to track unwanted catch.

If bycatch measurements are incomplete, incorrect, or insufficient, scientists cannot conduct accurate assessments and fisheries managers cannot make informed decisions. Because the proposed rule would weaken monitoring programs, it could result in more overfishing and depletion of vulnerable species, so Pew is recommending that it be withdrawn.