New project to reduce entanglement of marine animals in net fishing gear
A joint effort is underway to reduce the level of entanglement of marine animals in net fishing gear around Scottish waters.
Nature agency NatureScot today released a report on the first phase of the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) project, the first of its kind in the UK.
It brings together commercial trap fishers, researchers, NatureScot, and marine mammal conservation and rescue charities to better understand the extent of the entanglement of whales, sharks and other marine life offshore. Scottish coasts.
Entanglements in fishing gear and marine debris can impact both the welfare and conservation of marine animals, causing injury, disability and death. Entanglement is the leading identified cause of human-induced mortality in minke and humpback whales in Scottish waters, and the only known cause of human-caused mortality in basking sharks and sea turtles.
During surveys at sea, over 22% of live minke whales sighted on the west coast showed signs of prior entanglement.
The project consisted of interviewing 159 trap fishermen about their fishing practices and their experience of the entanglement. A total of 146 entanglements over a 10-year period have been reported.
According to NatureScot, only a small number of them were previously known, showing that entanglements are “extremely underreported”. Interviews also revealed that a wider range of species than previously thought was involved.
Fishermen also participated in training events and workshops to promote best practices, reduce the risk of entanglement, and safely disentangle large marine animals from fishing gear. This training allowed fishermen to call to each other and intervene quickly and safely in the face of any entangled animal.
NatureScot Fisheries Advisor Dr Kirstie Dearing said: âWe all find it heartwarming to see our majestic marine species in distress, so we are truly encouraged by the strong commitment and willingness of the fishing industry to work. to practical, safe and lasting solutions to the entanglement problem.
âWe will only solve this problem by working together on possible legislative changes. The new reporting requirement will also help us better understand the extent of the problem. “
Based on feedback from fishermen, the report recommends a number of ways to tackle marine entanglement, including testing weighted ropes (ropes that sink rather than float) and stricter regulations to limit the amount of gear in the water and put caps on the number of creels – all of which were supported by the fishermen involved in the study, NatureScot said.
Other recommendations include the development of seasonal distribution maps of vulnerable species to identify potential high-risk areas, and testing of “on-call” – or cordless, fishing systems.
Bally Philip, Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF), said: âThe SCFF is proud to have participated in this study which is at the forefront of understanding and research into mitigations to address the global problem of entanglement of marine animals in fishing gear.
âThe project demonstrates that when an alliance of government, industry, academics and conservation groups work together, solutions can advance to a degree that would otherwise be elusive.
âWe look forward to working with our partners to find funds for the next phase of this project, which will be to research and develop equipment and strategies to reduce the entanglement of cetaceans and sharks in our fisheries. “
This research focused on entanglements in fishing gear associated with the trap sector. However, cases involving monofilament lines and trawls have also been observed.
The study was led by NatureScot and supported by SCFF, the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. It was funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.